Preparations for a Durango-La Plata County Airport expansion will go forward, despite the defeat Tuesday of a property tax question to pay for construction.
The $1.1 million environmental assessment will examine three possible options for expansion. It will look at the impacts of a new terminal on the east side of the runway, a terminal next to the existing one or a remodel.
The results, due back in 2018, will guide the Durango City Council’s and the La Plata County Commission’s decisions, Interim Airport Director Tony Vicari said.
“I think something is going to have to be done in the fairly short future,” he said.
But plans for construction are on hold after the vote.
A question to increase property taxes for 20 years to raise $40 million for a new terminal on the east side of the runway was defeated Tuesday 62 percent to 38 percent.
People from both political parties were not surprised by the results.
La Plata County Democratic Party Chairwoman Jean Walter said many people felt an airport expansion would benefit a specific group of people, such as real estate developers.
“I don’t think there was ever any hope for the airport,” she said.
Velbeth Jones, a Republican, said those who would benefit, such as the passengers and the airlines should pay for it.
“Don’t put it on my tax bill,” she said.
Councilor Dick White said he still believes rebuilding the terminal on the east side is the best solution to meet existing needs and ensure the airport has room to grow.
“If we stay on the west side of the runway there will be additional costs down the road,” he said.
Mayor Christina Rinderle and Councilor Dean Brookie shared similar sentiments Tuesday night.
La Plata Economic Alliance Development Director Roger Zalneraitis said that while it is clear improvements need to be made the airport, the proposal likely needs to be re-evaluated.
That could mean adjusting the financing or the plan for construction, he said.
After a strong campaign effort, the election results closely mirrored polling done last year.
“We had an extraordinary if not impossible battle to win,” said Zalneraitis, who was heavily involved in the campaign.
Some minor terminal improvements will be made this year, including new carpet and seating set to be installed soon, Vicari said.
New charging stations and better wi-fi access also are in the works, he said.