By Charlene Smith
Pine Bluffs Post staff 

Commissioners take off on airport grant

 

Charlene Smith

After approving nine consent agenda items the Laramie County Commissioners turned their attention to the Cheyenne Regional Airport for the second meeting in a row Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Dave Haring, manager of the Cheyenne Regional Airport explained a grant opportunity for sustainability planning.

“The FAA offered money for environmental plans in the past and we have used some funds for projects such as the retention ponds,” explained Haring.

Haring said the Federal Aviation Administration was looking at a “holistic approach to airport planning.” The program began in 2010 with 10 airports and added another 13 in 2012.

Haring told the commissioners the airport didn’t petition for this grant, the FAA sought them out. He added the Cheyenne airport is a smaller airport and could represent the smaller airports and what they need since Haring believes these plans will soon be mandatory.

The FAA grant is “discretionary funding” meaning the airport can use it for whatever they choose. Haring said the environment is important but airports have to consider the cost and the environment it is in. Haring explained without forethought and logic, money could be wasted in the name of “green.” He explained they could change out the runway light bulbs for more efficient bulbs, but the airport is in a cold environment and the heat from the bulb helps to keep the ice off the lights. If the airport replaced the bulbs, they would have to place some sort of heater for each one and that would not be effective.


Haring listed the four areas of criteria for the sustainability plan; economic viability, operational efficiency, natural resource conservation and social responsibility.

Haring said the Cheyenne airport already considered those criteria when making any decisions. He added they also needed to consider the airport image as a gateway to Cheyenne and possibly all of Wyoming as well as passenger sustainability.

“This might be the only experience some people have with Wyoming and we want it to be pleasant enough to make them want to return or stay,” Haring said.

Haring said this plan wouldn’t be as easily adaptable if they weren’t so close to beginning their 20 year plan, and the sustainability would go along with the master plan. Haring also said the FAA money would fund $300,000 or 93.73 percent of the project, Wyoming Department of Roads would fund $12,000 and the airport will be responsible for $8,000, for a total project cost of $320,000.


Commissioner M. Lee Hausenauer reminded Haring of his low level of comfort when taking federal money.

“The federal government is $17 trillion in debt and they want to put more money into ‘green,’” Hausenauer said. “It sounds like you are already doing a lot of the work yourself, and the airport won’t shut down without this grant. I am against taking any more federal money.”

Commissioner Buck Holmes said he was “tired of hearing about ‘green’ all the time,” and although he would support the grant, he was a little fed up with the government pushing green down their throats.

Commissioner Diane Humphrey said she would also support the grant, and felt that if the Cheyenne airport didn’t take the money another small airport would benefit. She added the money being offered wouldn’t be saved by the government just because Cheyenne airport turned it down.

Chairman Troy Thompson rounded out the comments by saying all five commissioners were very aware of the federal spending that has become uncontrollable. But he felt airports are highly regulated by the federal government and will always be tied to them. Thompson said the commissioners had to “do what is right for the county,” and taking care of the needs of the county is important.” He echoed Humphrey’s remarks that if the money doesn’t go here, it would go somewhere else.

The commissioners approved the grant application, with Hausenauer voting against it.

The next commissioners meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 3:30 p.m.

Charlene Smith

 

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