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As Chaffee County and the city of Salida move deeper into 2019 budget planning, the Airport Advisory Board for the Salida airport, Harriet Alexander Field, is highlighting budget needs for what airport Manager Zech Papp says is “necessary airport maintenance.”

The maintenance needs include a new beacon tower, a new grass mower, a Fog Boss to sweep the apron, a bathroom remodel, and new airport painting and re-stripping. Papp worries the city of Salida does not see the importance of airport maintenance budget items.

“The beacon tower has to be raised to 50 feet. By FAA (Federal Aviation administration) rules, we have to keep the grass mowed. We need a new double batwing mower,” said Papp. “A mower costs more than $100,000. We are constantly borrowing equipment from city departments. They do their best, but we never know when things are going to be done. It’s no way to run an airport. To make money, we need to invest in this airport – things that can increase airport revenue.”

Among discussion topics were the Xcel Energy tower that penetrates air space for the approach to the airport. Xcel has upgraded the power lines north of the airport, but the poles in the approach have not been touched. Papp said the airport has filled out forms to place a permanent note in the record about the approach perimeters. Higher poles could shorten the approach to the airport by 1,000 feet.

“We have to protect the approach path. We already do a notice to airmen that there is a power line in the approach,” said Papp. “The pavement is still there for takeoff, but we might have to do a displaced threshold for landing – change the paint stripes by 500 or 1,000 feet for landings.”

The board discussed the project known as Salida Airport Major Subdivision, proposed by Chavara Ranch LLC, last year. The live-work development project is proposed for land zoned industrial along the southern edge of the airport. The county has approved the preliminary plat, but the final plat has not yet been filed. The board is concerned about how further residential development could impact FAA compliance, particularly development in the approach perimeter.

“We signed a grant insurance program saying we’ll protect the airport – it has rules about what can be built around an airport,” said Papp. “We zoned everything industrial around the airport. But right now, according to the (county) Planning Department, apparently there can be residential around an airport in this county. There is nothing to stop it; it’s a percentage of the commercial/zoned areas. We have to put in a moratorium on this for future development.”

Airport board member Dennis Dempsey said he convened a subcommittee of the Airport Board to begin to shape plat notes but was told by Chaffee County Administrative Assistant Patty Baldwin to stop until the proposed development reached final plat. “There is a lot of gray in the interpretation of those conditions in county documents,” said Dempsey.

Once the board completes the new master plan (in process), the 250-page application can be done to request the airport overlay to meet FAA guidelines. The overlay will document airport requirements, including zoning, limiting residential occupancy and airport approach boundaries.“We need to put in an airport overlay district and adopt it into the land use code,” said Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker.

The board discussed the delivery of a used fuel truck (known as a 100LL fuel truck), which it has arranged to purchase from Steamboat Springs. It’s shorter than the airport’s current fuel truck, but the board says it would be “a great asset here.” The board is trying to find a hazmat driver to bring it to Salida over Rabbit Ears Pass.

The board discussed next steps related to the fuel farm, including the need to schedule a licensed electrician to complete needed electrical work on the fuel gauges. It plans to participate in the Oct. 24 Salida High School Career Day.