Eagle considers flight subsidies for airport
EAGLE, Colorado – Eagle officials are willing to chip in some subsidy dollars to increase the number of commercial flights at the Eagle County Regional Airport; they just aren’t convinced they should be paying the same amount as other communities that realize more benefits from the facility.
Tuesday night, Kent Myers, of the Eagle Air Alliance, concluded a series of fund-raising visits to local municipal governments by presenting the group’s three-year strategic plan to members of the Eagle Town Board.
The plan includes various proposals to increase commercial flights at the airport. For that to happen, Myers said a subsidy system needs to be negotiated with the airlines to get them to expand service to Eagle.
To pay the subsidy, Myers developed a draft budget that calls for local governments to chip in around $525,000. That draft plan includes a $125,000 payment from Eagle County and $30,000 from all of the county’s town governments, as well as Beaver Creek Resort Co.
Tuesday night, he asked the town board to pledge $30,000, saying that a pledge was not the same thing as an actual payment.
While Eagle officials supported the effort to bring in more commercial flights, they balked at the dollar amount.
“It seems like the majoring of benefits are going to be in Avon, Beaver Creek and Vail,” Trustee Kraige Kinney said.
“Your winner is jobs. That’s what it is all about for you guys,” Myers said.
Myers said the airport produces 250 direct jobs and, of that number, 53 percent of the employees live in Gypsum and 40 percent live in Eagle.
Trustee Scott Turnipseed said he was uneasy with paying the same subsidy amount as Gypsum when the neighboring community collects sales tax revenues from the airport, including about $600,000 in car-rental revenues, in addition to netting a larger share of the employees.
“Clearly, they have a much bigger benefit from this,” Turnipseed said.
Kinney said he was in favor of Eagle’s $10,000 pledge last year and would favor a similar payment for 2012. Kinney said if the Eagle Air Alliance could make its case for the larger amount, he would be willing to reconsider.
Mayor Ed Woodland asked Myers to make a specific funding request as part of the Eagle’s community donations budget, which will be approved in the coming few weeks. Myers said that timing would be appropriate because subsidy negotiations wouldn’t begin until January.
During his presentation, Myers said about 80 percent of the airport’s commercial business occurs between December and April of the year. During that five-month period, there is a time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on 17 Saturdays when the airport could be classified as congested.
“On 17 Saturdays of the season, the church isn’t big enough, and I am not a fan of building the church for Easter Sunday,” Myers said.
The big opportunity is summer travel, he said.
The Eagle Town Board renewed the Brush Creek Saloon liquor license Tuesday night but not without some discussion.
Last year, the board contemplated suspending the tavern’s license after a series of incidents involving overservice. Eagle Police officer Ryan Toy said that the number of reports at the saloon have decreased, but he did detail three serious incidents that happened during the past year, including a fatal car accident. The accident happened in December and involved a man who had left the bar 15 minutes before the crash.
“After the fatal accident, I did see a change in the attitude of the staff,” Toy said. “We are seeing some improvements, but there is still a long way to go.”
Dagmar Balasova, one of the Brush Creek Saloon owners, said bartenders are keeping a closer eye on overservice.
“We are trying to do the best we can,” she said.
Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell said that the Brush Creek Saloon is currently on probation through the Colorado state liquor enforcement authority.
“The state does have a watchful eye over them,” he said.
Neither Powell nor Eagle Police Chief Rodger McLaughlin recommended the town take action on the tavern’s license at this point.
The Town Board agreed but said it wanted to keep a more watchful eye on the bar. Members instructed staff to make quarterly reports about the saloon, along with more timely reports if there are serious incidents at the bar. With that caveat, the Town Board unanimously approved the liquor license renewal.