Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cortez council supports increased airport user fees

During their first meeting in the new City Hall on Tuesday, the Cortez City Council voted to support a fee increase for the municipal airport.

Cortez Airport Manager Russ Machen wants to raise the passenger user fee, which is currently $4.50 per person, to at least $9. The move would require congressional approval, so the council voted to authorize Mayor Karen Sheek to sign letters to the state senators and congressman requesting an increase. The vote came during a busy night for the city council, during which they awarded several utility-related bids, heard public comment from numerous residents and announced the upcoming Four States Agricultural Exposition.

Machen said the airport fee is due for a raise, since it hasn’t been increased for 17 years.

“I think we’re all aware ... how much construction costs have gone up even in the last couple years,” he said. “Our ability to match federal grant money has not kept up with the times.”

He also said new regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration installed over the last few years have increased airport expenses all over the country, while federal grants have decreased. If Congress passed a bill allowing airports to double their user fees, the Cortez airport would increase its overall revenue by 18 percent and avoid having to dip into other parts of the city’s budget, Machen said.

The council voted unanimously to authorize Sheek to sign letters of support for the action and send them to Sen. Cory Gardner, Sen. Michael Bennett and Rep. Scott Tipton.

Earlier in the evening, Sheek signed a proclamation declaring the third week of March to be “Ag Expo Week.” Several members of the event’s organizing board attended the meeting and gave a short presentation. The 35th Ag Expo takes place this year at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds on March 16-18.

Also on the council’s agenda was the transfer of a land lease at the airport, allowing a city resident to sell a hangar for private aircraft to a new owner. The council also approved bids for fertilizer, a new refuse truck and an aerial fiber and underground splicing project that will form part of the Cortez Community Network expansion along County Road L. The council wrapped up their meeting by approving some minor amendments to an ordinance that regulates mobile food vendors and setting a public hearing for an amended ordinance that regulates possession of alcohol at the Cortez Municipal Golf Course. That hearing is scheduled for March 28.

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