Rio Grande County BOCC opens year with airport update

RIO GRANDE COUNTY — Kent Rominger Airport Manager Earl Robinson has several projects and grant opportunities in place for the coming year and it is only the beginning.

During the Rio Grande County Board of County commissioner meeting on Jan. 4, Robinson gave a first-of-year update beginning with the status of the new Jet A fuel system that was recently installed at the Del Norte airport. The tanks were installed on Dec. 12, 2022, and should be up and running before spring.

“Electrical service connection by Power Pro Electric is now needed,” Robinson said. “We need to get this system onto our insurance policy. Arrangements have been made to install temporary ‘jersey barriers’ on the south side of Jet A tank. Yellow bollards will be installed for permanent protection in April.”

In addition to the new Jet A fuel, the airport in also seeing a surge in new construction of hangars, three out of the six new buildings will be finished by the end of January if the weather holds and the remaining three will be finished by spring, according to Robinson.

“Currently there are six tracts in various stages of development,” Robinson said. “If the weather remains favorable and not too severe, we will see hangars on three of these tracts before the end of January. The other three later this spring. Our prediction concerning larger tracts so far has proven correct: larger tracts will result in larger hangars and these larger tracts will attract larger aircrafts and some of these will appreciate our new Jet A fuel services.”

With the fuel tanks comes new opportunity for growth at the small airport. Right now, Robinson is in the process of working with local organizations to create a small wildfire suppression location as the airport is in a central location to most areas of high fire danger.

During the update, Commissioner John Noffsker posed a concern that the airport was focusing on commerce from out-of-town pilots rather than gearing the focus toward more local interests.

“I fear we may be depleting resources for the local interest. We are changing the demographic of the airport. The emphasis changes for the community and you become a haven for out-of-area people to store their airplanes. It is something I have been concerned about and cautioned the advisory board early on. That’s why I ask how many hangars that have been built as of late that are owned by the county, are occupied by residents of the Valley or outsiders that come in and park their plane,” said Noffsker. “We don’t want to deplete resources for the locals.”

“We are promoting commerce with the growth of this airport and Earl has done an excellent job with all the building taking place. Rio Grande County is going to benefit in commerce with all of this growth,” stated Commissioner Scott Deacon.