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Aerial view of the Salida Airport property taken in October of 2021. Dan Smith Photo.

The Salida Airport had one of it busiest years in 2022 and the growth and expansion looks to continue this year and into the near future.

The Harriet Alexander Field Airport Advisory Board heard about the progress from Airport Manager Zech Papp. Wednesday, he reviewed the accomplishments and outlined main project areas during 2023 for board members, including new county commissioner P.T. Wood and retiring county administrator Bob Christiansen.

One of two main projects for the year will include a new Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) to replace the current aged system while moving its location to the other side of the current east-west runway, which will allow for continued hangar additions. The $179,000 project was started last year and will involve federal and state grant funding as well as local dollars from both the city and county. Increased cost were incurred to get power to the new AWOS location which will also enhance hangar expansion on the field. The new unit will have added features like lightning and rain detection equipment.

The second major project will be a needed expansion of the field’s shop building with a 40-foot by 40-foot addition to the current 40-by-60-foot structure and new broad doors to allow equipment drive-through. Some airport equipment has to sit outside currently, Papp noted.

Future projects on the drawing board will include a new terminal building and executive hangar. Papp said cost estimates are being finalized for those projects.

Event-wise, 2023 will also see the return of another Salida Airport Air Show. It is now scheduled for Sept. 16, with local fundraising and air performers currently being planned.

For the record, 2022 was indeed an active year, with Papp pointing to a taxiway extension project addition funded by $1.2 million in Federal Aviation Administration funds, paired with about $300,000 in state transportation funds and the remainder from local funding. The main runway was also seal coated and re-striped, along with paved airport access roads and parking area.

Papp also said the land acquisition off the west end of the main runway last year aided in helping to obtain the runway protection zone. Future land purchases being considered will help prevent development growth from  restricting future airport growth.

In 2022, nearly 70,000 gallons of fuel were sold at Harriet Alexander Field. Papp said there are currently 29 aircraft hangars at the airport, and he’s had letters of intent from potential clients for 30 more in the future.

The committee also took time out to discuss recent public comments by Salida city council member Harald Kasper about hangar rents perhaps being too cheap at the field for aircraft owners he described as ‘rich.’

Papp said he had spoken with Kasper, who, he said, apologized for his comments after having the details of hangar leases explained.

“I explained to him you’re not leasing a 4,900-square-foot building for a thousand dollars a year, you’re leasing a 4,900-square foot patch of land on which you’ve built a structure, and you don’t own the land underneath and then you lease it for 40 years at a thousand dollars a year and that’s increased by the Consumer Price Index each and every year.”

“On top of that you’re taxed at a commercial business rate for that structure for the 40 years you own that building, and then if you default at any point on that lease, the hangar reverts back to the county at that point, and so I think he really didn’t understand all of that side of things,” said Papp.

Papp added such statements can result in misinformation among the public about the airport clients, noting that not all aircraft owners are rich. Some committee members said they wanted to have a retraction by Kasper.