Building a new Durango-La Plata County Airport terminal on the east side of the runway may be a little bit more affordable than previously thought, at least at first.
The Durango-La Plata County Airport Commission voted Thursday to recommend a revised plan to build a new terminal across the runway from the current building.
The recommendation will go to the Durango City Council and La Plata County Commission, which will discuss the issue in February.
One of the supporters, Tom Greenhut, the airport commission chairman, called the plan a starting point for local elected officials.
“This is something that gives the city and county a place to start talking,” Greenhut said.
Any tax increase would have to go before the voters, and that’s one of the reasons consulting firm Jviation divided airport expansion on the east side into three phases instead of two, said Dave Nafie, a planning manager for Jviation.
The first phase now carries an estimated cost of about $85 million instead of about $114 million, according to Jviation.
The total build-out is now estimated to cost $131 million instead of $134 million. Voters would approve spending only on the first phase initially.
Although all the board members agreed that the airport needs some expansion, two board members voted against the plan for various reasons.
Moving the airport terminal to the east side of the runway was one of three options for airport expansion proposed by the consultants.
The consultants have previously suggested remodeling the current airport terminal and building a new terminal next to the existing one.
Moving the terminal to the east side would allow the airport to continue to grow far into the future, while keeping the airport on the west side may not provide enough space for growth, Greenhut said.
“We need to be thinking about the next 35 years,” he said.
Consultants from Jviation also recommended moving the airport and cut the price by designing a phase that would meet the current airport traffic, Nafie said. Under the previous plan, the first phase of construction would have accommodated growth.
For $85 million, the city and county could buy utilities to serve the airport, a 82,000 square-foot terminal, 1,500 parking spaces, part of the taxiway and more space to park planes, according to consultants.
In the next phases, the taxiway would be finished, the terminal expanded and more car and airplane parking added, among other improvements.
The first $85 million phase could qualify for between $35 million to $40 million in funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, Nafie said.
If local government finances between $40 million to $60 million through property taxes, the increase to property owners would likely be under $80 annually.
For someone who owns a home in the $350,000 range, the tax increase could be between $36 to $54 a year, according to La Plata County projections.
But board member Gary Derck was skeptical and voted against the recommendation, because moving the terminal comes with fixed infrastructure costs, and it would be hard to scale back the project.
“We either find 85 million bucks or we don’t go, and that scares the heck out of me,” Derck said.
He suggested general-aviation services be moved to the east side of the runway, leaving room for for commercial aviation expansion.
Elected officials will give consultants with Jviation direction in February, and the consultants likely will do more analysis of financing in the coming months.