The La Plata County commissioners approved pursuing a plan to build a new Durango-La Plata County Airport terminal on the east side of the runway Tuesday.
By a unanimous vote, the commissioners officially directed consultants to research all the funding options for a new $85 million terminal project. The Durango City Council took the same action last week, which means research for funding can now move forward.
“I’ve met no one who’s done work on the airport who thinks it’s a good idea to remodel what we’ve got,” said Commissioner Julie Westendorff.
The consultants have proposed building a terminal on the opposite side of runway from the existing terminal that would be big enough to meet existing traffic needs, but that could be easily expanded in the future.
For $85 million, the city and county could build a 82,000 square-foot terminal with utilities, 1,500 parking spaces, part of the taxiway and more space to park planes, according to consultants. The turnoff to the airport at Colorado Highway 172 also will be reconstructed for safety.
“I’m in favor of addressing today’s needs,” Westendorff said.
Commissioner Gwen Lachelt agreed, calling the move “the most common-sense decision.”
Other officials, including city councilors and airport staff have argued remodeling the current terminal or building a new terminal on the existing side could be a wasted investment in the future when the community outgrows it.
While Westendorff acknowledged the consultant’s growth projections between 1.9 percent to 3.5 percent per year may not be met, some growth is inevitable.
“I think it’s unrealistic not to expect some kind of growth going forward,” she said.
Both the city and county boards will reassess the viability of the terminal once all the funding options are presented. So far, consultants with Jviation have suggested asking the voters to approve a property-tax increase and applying for grant funds from the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA could contribute $35 to $40 million.