Saturday, April 14, 2012

St. Anthony officials seek county help for airport

St. Anthony Airport Runway
 Crack sealing of the runway is among St. Anthony officials’ plans for upgrading Stanford Field, the city’s airport. While grants, fees and property taxes will pay for some of the cost of a list of improvements, they won’t cover all of them. City officials met Monday with Fremont County officials to seek help. 

ST. ANTHONY — Airport upkeep is a prime focus of St. Anthony officials.

They shared that focus Monday with the Fremont County Commission, urging the county to help financially with a project that might help the facility grow.

“The city has put a lot of money into it,” Mayor Neils Thueson said, also acknowledging the support the airport has received in the past from the county.

“It’s been a real asset to the city and to the county,” the mayor told the commission. Of particular benefit to the county and its agricultural base are the two agricultural spray plane operations at the airport, he said.

In recent years, the county has contributed $3,000 annually for airport projects.

This year the city asked for more.

The commission discussed the issue and agreed to contribute more, but not the requested amount.

Councilman Rod Willmore, the council liaison with the City Airport Board, said the city has been negotiating with Rocky Mountain Power to install three transformers and a new power line to serve existing and future hangar owners at the airport.

The electrical upgrade is estimated to cost $27,350. The city plans to provide materials and labor totaling $2,500 to that project, as well as city funds totaling $16,150. That leaves $11,200 — the amount Thueson and Willmore requested from the county.

The commission voted later to allocate $6,000 toward the city’s request, an amount double what the annual contribution has been, but half of what the city requested.

Before the vote, county officials raised several questions, such as how many hangars would benefit from the new power lines and whether those hangar owners would pay hookup fees to help pay for the cost. They also wanted to know what fees the city charged to hangar owners.

The airport has 22 existing hangars. Except for those with long-term contracts, the city charges hangar owners an annual fee of 20 cents per square foot to lease the city land where the hangars are built. The fees were reviewed two years ago and were raised to be more comparable to area airports.

Willmore said the city has been approached about the construction of more hangars, but one of the needs of hangar owners is electrical power, and the available power at the airport is maxed out.

“We have extension cords running between buildings,” Willmore said.

He estimated about half of the hangars have power now, and many of those without power would be interested in the service, though he is uncertain about how many.

Hookup fees of about $500 for electrical service have been discussed, but he is unsure how many takers the city would get, especially since the airport recently added natural gas service, at the expense of the hangar owners.

If electricity were available at the airport, there is a strong possibility more pilots might choose to build hangars at the facility, since the Rexburg airport is out of hangar space and the Rigby airport is nearly filled to capacity, Willmore said.

More hangars would bring more property tax revenue and fees to help pay for the upgrades, the city officials said.

The city also is planning a $30,491 project this spring to crack seal, paint and seal the runway with the help of a $21,000 state grant.

Last year the city completed a fence project to enclose the airport to keep animals away from the runway.


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