County offers suppport for jet flights

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The Moffat County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 to pledge $2,500 to guarantee major airline service from Texas to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Commissioner Darryl Steele dissented in the first split vote of 2004. The commissioners only had 5 split votes in 2003.

"I might consider it another year, but I can't support this from a business point of view," Steele said.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association has requested support from a dozen Yampa Valley government and business entities to raise $200,000 in pledges for flights from Houston to Hayden on Continental Airlines. The flights are the cornerstone of a marketing effort to increase summer tourism revenue. The resort association originally asked the county for $5,000, but Commissioners Marianna Raftopoulos and Les Hampton said the county couldn't afford that much at this time.

The $2,500 payment won't be due until October, and depending on the success of the venture, the county could have to pay less than that, said Sandy Evans-Hall of Steamboat Springs Chamber of Commerce.

The Moffat County Tourism Association has donated $5,000 to advertise Moffat County as a summer vacation destination. Postcards for Steamboat use photos of green grass and blue sky to advertise the town as a cool place with low humidity, the opposite of Houston's scorching summer climate. Similar materials will be developed for Moffat County, focusing on local attractions such as Dinosaur National Monument and Browns Park, Evans-Hall said.

Steamboat Springs City Council has pledged $80,000 to the effort. Lodging properties in Steamboat are attempting to come up with $60,000.

Routt County hasn't donated any money to the airline venture, but as owner of the airport, the county bears the brunt of capital improvement projects and business expenses.

Evans-Hall intends to ask Craig City Council for $5,000. Jim Feree, Craig city manager, said the council has not made a decision on the subject.

"I view this as a regional investment. When business is rough, you don't stop advertising," Hampton said.

Many of the airport's employees live in Craig, and the county didn't make its regular contribution to the airport this year. Raftopoulos said she views the pledge as a way of supporting the airport.

Funding for the pledge will come from the Commissioners Grant, a $15,000 line item for unbudgeted expenses. On Wednesday, the commissioners voted unanimously to donate $750 from the commissioners grant to Craig City Council to support the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous. City Council had asked for $1,500, but the commissioners all agreed they couldn't afford that much. Former Craig mayor and commissioner candidate Saed Tayyara said that while working at the Holiday Inn, he saw firsthand how tourism in Steamboat spills over to Craig and Moffat County.

"The object is to generate tourism dollars. If we sit back we're going to die. We're not going to get anywhere," Tayyara said.

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