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Gliders and a tow plane at the Salida Airport. Photo by Dan Smith.

At an advisory meeting earlier this week, Airport Manager Zech Papp briefed members of the Advisory Board on 2019 operations and the projects planned for this year utilizing state and federal funding at Harriet Alexander Field.

He reported that the airport’s Federal Aviation Administration grant for this year is $600,000. Combined with money rolled over from the last grant cycle, local city and county funding, and a grant match from the Colorado Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division, the funding totals slightly more than $680,000. The funds will be available for the rehabilitation of the existing taxiway A, including filling all cracks and seal coating the taxiway and airport apron.

An application for $7.5 million in FAA supplemental grants to extend the Salida Airport taxiway to the east end of the main runway was not approved. Extension of the taxiway is a safety priority because aircraft taking off to the west now have to enter the active main runway to back taxi for takeoff.

Papp said repairs have been completed on the fuel farm spill bucket, made necessary after it failed an inspection. Papp added that normal fuel sales from the fuel farm have resumed. Tests were conducted on the soil beneath the fuel tank and found there was no soil contamination.

Another project discussed was the replacement of the current 35-foot beacon tower with a new 57-foot structure, delayed until local government approvals for a height variance were received. That construction, Papp said, should get underway this summer.

Papp reported that a topic at the Colorado Airport Operators Association conference in Denver next week will be an updated Economic Impact Study for all airports in the state; helping to quantify the economic impact each airport has on their local community. The last time an impact study was done, it showed approximately $4.2 million in local economic benefit for Chaffee County, said Papp.

Some board members commented that the airport will be of increasing value as the community grows in population, and proved its worth as an invaluable resource in combating major fires like the Decker Fire.

The K-Max aircraft comes in for a landing after its 21st mission of the day, dropping water on the Decker Fire in 660 gal. drops. Photo by Jan Wondra.

Papp is scheduled to make a presentation to the board of directors for the Colorado Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division on the utilization of the airport in fighting last fall’s Decker Fire.

About 10 aircraft were based at the field during the firefighting operations. Papp noted some 15,000 gallons of fuel were pumped during October, about 11,000 gallons of that for firefighting aircraft.

2019 was a record year for fuel sales for the airport. Papp reported that a total of more than 61,000 gallons of fuel sold, bringing revenue of more than $281,500.

The board also got an update on the airport master plan, which is in final preparation stages; a document vital to long-term planning and future projects.

Chaffee County Commissioners have approved a resolution that would impose a second, temporary moratorium on the submission, acceptance or processing of any development applications that have a residential component within the Airport Overlay District.  Moratoriums on residential development are a common pubic safety practice to reduce risk from airport operations or air accidents. The original moratorium imposed for 2019 expired in Dec. 2019.