Thursday, January 22, 2015

Snow, new fences cause headaches at Vance Brand Airport (KLMO), Longmont, Colorado

This winter's persistent snow storms and below freezing temperatures has presented a problem for companies leasing hangar space at the Vance Brand Municipal Airport.

Assistant City Manager Shawn Lewis, who is overseeing airport operations while a replacement is chosen for former airport manager Tim Barth, said that the storms prompted several complaints from companies that fly out of the airport about snow on the runways and taxiways.

Although the airport is next door to the city's public works operations building where the city deploys its snowplows, the double and single-bladed plows are generally not used inside the airport, Lewis said.

"The city equipment we have is dedicated to the streets and the airport is an enterprise fund," Lewis said. Enterprise funds must support themselves through earned revenue and other monies, and is not fully subsidized by city coffers.

"The other reasons is because, well obviously the public works equipment is fully deployed on city streets in the event of a storm because that's its primary function," Lewis said.

The solution is that some of the private companies stationed at the airport contract with separate snow removal companies. For the rest of the shared space — some of the runways and taxiways — in 2010 the city contracted with Mile-Hi Airport Services, a company that is also owned by the owners of Mile-Hi Skydiving.

Under that contract, the city pays Mile-Hi Airport Services $60 an hour to remove snow when it's preventing the airport from functioning. Mile-Hi Airport Services is also contracted at $60 an hour to mow some parts of the airport and public works facility lawn and sweep debris from the taxiways and runways. Since the contract was first signed in 2010, it has been renewed the maximum number of four times annually, and the service will be bid out to prospective snow removal companies at the end of April this year.

One problem was that snow storms in November and December resulted in constant snowfall that hardened and iced over before it could be plowed by both Mile-Hi and the other contracted companies, making it difficult to plow away. The other problem is an unintentional consequence of a new airport improvement.

In 2013, the airport received a $400,000 grant from the state that it matched with $44,000 to buy and install better perimeter fencing to improve security. Most of that new fencing went up just before Barth resigned Dec. 19

"With the new fences nearing completion, the areas where the companies have been able to push snow before — they are no longer able to push the snow along the road and into the ditch," Lewis said.

City staff are working on where snow plows can put the snow for next winter.

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