New master plan at regional airport serving Steamboat describes tight finances for next five years | CraigDailyPress.com

New master plan at regional airport serving Steamboat describes tight finances for next five years

Tom Ross

— Capital projects will take a backseat to tightened seat belts and projected revenue shortfalls Tuesday as the Routt County commissioners go over their new five-year master plan for Yampa Valley Regional Airport with their consulting team.

As the airport in Hayden, which bustles during ski season, continues to make its way back from the recession in an era of airline mergers, the county has seen its cash flow there drop from $1.3 million in 2009 to $39,000 in 2014. Commission Chairman Doug Monger, who is also the new chairman of the Yampa Valley Airport Commission, expects to weather several tough years ahead on the airport revenue side before gradual growth in passenger numbers begins to restore fiscal health to the county-owned airport.

"It's pretty tight, pretty tough for the next few years," Monger said. "We're basically projecting a $300,000 (operating) loss at the airport for the next five years. Whether that will be a subsidy for the county," remains to be seen.

The ski season flight operation is subsidized by the resort industry, lodging taxes and a quarter percent of sales tax in Steamboat. But the airport's revenues are linked to passenger numbers.

The airport first became financially self-sufficient by relying on landing fees and land-side fees from rental car companies, parking and shuttle services in 2006. But the fiscal health of YVRA has been eroding as the number of passengers traveling through the airport — who in turn drive those fees — has dropped.

County Manager Tom Sullivan pointed out Monday that enplanements (departing passengers) at the airport have dropped from 140,100 in 2008 to 96,000 in 2014. Final ski season numbers for the past winter are yet to be reported by the airlines.

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"The master plan projects our reserves will go as low as $150,000 in 2018, and other times, we're above $200,000 and at the highest, $235,000, and by 2020 or 2021, we'll be stronger again based on growth in enplanements of 2.65 percent (annually)," Sullivan said. "I actually think that's being very conservative."

The new master plan, being assembled by consulting firm Jviation, also includes some major capital projects like additional parking for passengers, rental cars and jets, but none of that will happen if growing numbers of enplanements don't create a demand for those projects, Monger said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

If you go

What: Routt County commissioners review proposed airport master plan

When: 2:30p.m., April 21

Where: Commissioners’ Hearing Room, Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs

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