Steamboat City Council approves operating plan for winter air service program | CraigDailyPress.com

Steamboat City Council approves operating plan for winter air service program

Scott Franz

A United plane arrives at Yampa Valley Regional Airport during the holiday season in 2013.

— The flight plan for Steamboat Springs’ upcoming winter air service program will grow the program’s number of round trip seats by 8 percent, expand flights to and from some West Coast destinations and dedicate $250,000 to spend on the marketing of winter flights.

But almost three years after voters here approved a new quarter-cent sales tax to support the winter air program, the tax revenue is not on track to help deliver the number of airline seats supporters anticipated it would.

The Local Marketing District, which oversees the funding of the winter air service at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, presented its 2014-15 budget and operating plan to the Steamboat Springs City Council Tuesday night for approval.

In addition to the winter program's growth and flight enhancements, the LMD board also revealed it again has included $250,000 in the budget to secure summer flight service.

"We think we have a very good program," LMD board chairman Chuck Porter told the council. "We get inquiries from other communities asking us what we have, and how we do it. We do think it's working as intended."

As evidence, he pointed to the growing number of seats, the opening up of new markets and the stabilization of the air service program.

Recommended Stories For You

There are a number of changes to the roster of flights that will service Yampa Valley Regional Airport after snow starts to fly here.

The airport will see a new flight from Dallas over the holidays, four flights a week from Los Angeles compared to three last year, and three flights from Seattle via Alaska Airlines instead of the two a week in the service's inaugural season. There also is an additional flight from Houston on Saturdays during the winter.

Porter told the council the growth in the overall seats in the winter program will come on peak days of the week.

The summer service funding, which comes from reserves that are accrued because of the performance of the previous winter flight season, has been earmarked but not contracted yet, Porter said.

While the council unanimously approved the operating budget for the air program, some members did have some questions and suggestions for the LMD board.

Council member Scott Ford wanted to start learning more about what the quarter-cent sales tax community members are paying to support the program is worth in terms of the return on that investment.

"What is it getting us?" he asked.

Ford said it's a story that needs to be told as the tax nears its sunset and potentially gets returned to voters for approval.

"I think we have a great story to tell," said Rob Perlman, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. vice president of sales and marketing.

LMD board members see the tax funding that has supported the air service since 2011 as providing a greater economic benefit than its cost to the taxpayers.

"If that (money) was not available, we would have far less air service available to us this coming winter. It's as simple as that," board member Rod Hanna said at this time last year when the board's previous budget proposal was approved by council. "It's a very difficult environment."

Board members Tuesday night said the environment continues to be "challenging."

This year's projection of 108,000 seats is not close to the 160,000 inbound seats that supporters of the air tax projected the additional revenue would help to secure by 2016, when the sales tax sunsets.

Board members have said turbulence in the airline industry has continued to negatively impact the seat count.

The 8 percent growth in seats this winter season follows a year when seats were static.

The tax, which was approved with 61 percent of the vote here in 2011, was projected to net around $1.3 million annually.

It generated $1.2 million in 2013 and is on track to hold steady at $1.2 million this year.

In other action

Green Team revived

The city of Steamboat is getting its Green Team back together. Council members voted 5-1 to endorse the city’s proposal to revive its Green Team. The team will include five city staff members and three other community members chosen by those staff members. The committee will "create goals and give direction so that the city of Steamboat Springs can serve as a community leader in sustainability by conducting daily operations with a focus on resource efficiency, cost effectiveness and respect for the environment."

Council member Scott Ford was the lone no vote, saying he wanted the city to first identify the problems it was trying to solve before moving forward with a committee.

Iron Horse collateral moved

The city will move the collateral on the debt owed on the Iron Horse Inn from the old hotel to its public works, transit and animal shelter buildings. The move essentially allows the city and the council to sell or trade the property or get rid of the hotel in the future and also will generate some savings down the road by allowing bonds to be refunded in a tax exempt format in 2018, according to city staff.

Sonja Macys was the only council member to vote against moving the collatoral, saying she wanted to table it to add some additional information about the proposal in a future agenda packet to have the city be more transparent.

In other Iron Horse news, the city is considering renting out its vacant hotel building to members of the Sheraton staff.

City manager Deb Hinsvark also told the council in a memo that although the Iron Horse property was eyed as a potential trade for a police station property, she is "98 percent sure" the city will not ask the council to consider it in a swap.

Council orders compensation survey

The City Council voted unanimously to green light the spending of $35,000 from this year’s budget to have the Mountain State’s Employers Council conduct a comprehensive survey looking at the benefits and compensation of city employees.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

In other action

Green Team revived

The city of Steamboat is getting its Green Team back together. Council members voted 5-1 to endorse the city’s proposal to revive its Green Team. The team will include five city staff members and three other community members chosen by those staff members. The committee will “create goals and give direction so that the city of Steamboat Springs can serve as a community leader in sustainability by conducting daily operations with a focus on resource efficiency, cost effectiveness and respect for the environment.”

Council member Scott Ford was the lone no vote, saying he wanted the city to first identify the problems it was trying to solve before moving forward with a committee.

Iron Horse collateral moved

The city will move the collateral on the debt owed on the Iron Horse Inn from the old hotel to its public works, transit and animal shelter buildings. The move essentially allows the city and the council to sell or trade the property or get rid of the hotel in the future and also will generate some savings down the road by allowing bonds to be refunded in a tax exempt format in 2018, according to city staff.

Sonja Macys was the only council member to vote against moving the collatoral, saying she wanted to table it to add some additional information about the proposal in a future agenda packet to have the city be more transparent.

In other Iron Horse news, the city is considering renting out its vacant hotel building to members of the Sheraton staff.

City manager Deb Hinsvark also told the council in a memo that although the Iron Horse property was eyed as a potential trade for a police station property, she is “98 percent sure” the city will not ask the council to consider it in a swap.

Council orders compensation survey

The City Council voted unanimously to green light the spending of $35,000 from this year’s budget to have the Mountain State’s Employers Council conduct a comprehensive survey looking at the benefits and compensation of city employees.