Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Sheridan, Wyoming: County Commissioner Steve Maier appointed to statewide air service improvement council

SHERIDAN — County Commissioner Steve Maier was among the nine members appointed to the Wyoming Air Service Improvement Council last week as a representative of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association.

The council was formed in response to legislation passed during the 2018 budget session that called for the development of a plan to improve air service across the state. The council is expected to submit a commercial air service improvement plan to the governor and the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim and Joint Appropriations Committees for approval by Aug. 1. Maier said part of that plan will include a proposal to contract with a carrier to serve communities in Wyoming that are considered in critical need of assistance.  He said he expects the council to request proposals for a 10-year contract during its first meeting.

Sheridan is currently among the communities considered to have a critical need, though Maier said that will likely change as Sheridan’s air service continues to develop.

Riverton and Rock Springs are also listed as critical communities.

Shawn Parker, president of the Sheridan Johnson Counties Critical Air Service Team, said efforts to improve local air service have been successful in recent years.

“CAST and the state have worked really hard to put a reliable air-service provider here in Sheridan,” Parker said. “So what we would like to see out of it, from a local perspective, is that we get to keep our partner and we keep moving forward.”

Maier echoed that he was impressed by Sheridan’s current air service and believes his experience developing air service locally is one of the reasons he was appointed to the council.

Currently, the state contributes to a minimum revenue guarantee, along with Sheridan County, the city of Sheridan, Johnson County and the city of Buffalo, to Key Lime Air for the operation of local air service. Maier noted that the minimum revenue guarantee to Key Lime, which operates under the name Denver Air Connection, is half of what it was last year, as the air service has grown.

However, Maier said the state expects contracting with one carrier for the entire state will be cheaper than contributing to minimum revenue guarantees.

Sheridan recently renewed its contract with Key Lime Air. That contract begins July 1 and will run through June 30, 2019. Maier said the council’s proposals will have to be approved by the Legislature next spring and therefore the state contract likely would not take effect until after Sheridan County’s current contract has expired.

“We’ve got a year in Sheridan to evaluate what’s going on with our current carrier, which we’re very happy with and is making great strides in transitioning from being a charter airline to a commercial airline,” Maier said.

Maier added that if Sheridan County’s air service continues to improve it could decide not to opt in to the state plan and keep its current air service.

“By doing that, we may not be eligible for any state assistance on the revenue guarantee,” Maier said. “But we reduced it by half this year, and we have some things in the pipeline that, if they happen the way we think, will increase our flying public significantly. Certainly our goal is to get to a point where we don’t need the state support to make this work.”

The improvement council will hold its first meetings May 8 and May 9 at the Holiday Inn in Sheridan. Council members are expected to serve until March 15, 2019.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://thesheridanpress.com

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