The Saratoga Sun -

Hangar hangup

Road conditions keep town attorney from explaining hangar agreement at airport board meeting, airport upgrades and scheduling discussed

 


About five members of the public tuned into a conference call held by the Saratoga Airport Board at the board’s Jan. 11 meeting. The conference call, with representatives from the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Sage Civil Engineering, was meant to help the board plan logistics for improvements to the airport over the next two years.

Winter weather kept the meeting’s most eagerly anticipated guest, Saratoga town attorney David Erickson, in Rawlins, however.

At the meeting, Erickson was slated to explain the legal reasoning behind revisions to hangar lease terms that were enacted in early 2016. Without a lawyer present, that discussion was shelved until the next meeting of the board Feb. 8.

“I drove four and a half hours in snow and ice to get here (to hear Erickson’s presentation),” said one hangar owner. He explained that a hangar had been taken from him via eminent domain in Dubois, Wyo., and that he feared the same could happen under the new lease terms in Saratoga.

“I’m a little disappointed the town attorney couldn’t make the same effort (to get to the meeting),” the man said.

“We’re not about to ask anybody to put their life in danger to be here for a meeting,” board member Richard Raymer responded. Assured by board chair Jennifer Johnson that Erickson would be present at the Feb. 8 meeting, the man said he would make a point to attend next month, too.

Much of the rest of the meeting was spent discussing how best to proceed with construction and improvement projects at Shively Field over the next two years. Planned improvements include the installation of a Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) to help pilots land safely, improved lighting and security cameras and some apron, runway and associated electrical work.

The lighting and security cameras are set to be installed this spring, and Saratoga will receive Wyoming Aviation Capital Improvement Program (WACIP) funds to help defray costs for that project.

The apron and runway work features more moving parts and depends on grant funding from WYDOT (which will cover 6 percent of the project) and the FAA (which will pay 90 percent of the cost). That project will also necessitate closing the airport for 30 to 40 working days while construction is completed, a gap that will result in lost business whenever it is scheduled.

Airport board members and different agency officials spent much of the hour-long call trying to figure out how best to schedule the project. Minimizing lost revenue from the closure, avoiding weather related construction delays, conforming to grant-application deadlines, allowing for a sufficient bid window, getting a price tag attached before the end of the fiscal year in July and not interfering with the annual Conquistadors meeting of airline executives were all priorities for the board.

“Our main concern is not shutting the airport down during the most lucrative time of the year,” Johnson said, referencing increased summer traffic.

After much back-and-forth, it was decided that Sage Civil Engineering will send a package out to bid in April or March, and the bid process will take 100 days. The town will learn what the total price tag will be in June, and grant money will start arriving from the federal government in August or September. Ground will be broken on the project in April of 2018, and airport manager Kim Lorenzen said, “Hopefully they’ll be done paving in May,” so the airport will be functional again by the start of summer 2018.

The next meeting of the Saratoga Airport Board will be held 1 p.m., Feb. 8 at Saratoga Town Hall.

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