Rio Grande County discusses expansion of Ken Rominger Airport

RIO GRANDE COUNTY — In a meeting held with Rio Grande County Commissioners and Ken Rominger Airport Manager Earl Robinson on March 23, commissioners discussed the future of the airport and what it will look like once utility work being done by SLVREC is completed.

For the past several weeks, the board has been working through several projects at the airport which have included Jet A fuel installation and utility installation to help improve the airport and make it more accessible to pilots.

One of the more pressing concerns brought to the board by Robinson was the several inquiries he has been receiving from people who want to lease available land to place hangars for planes.

Commissioners stated that the new potential owners of the hangars would have to sign a revised lease stating that in the future, they would be responsible for additional costs associated with the utility lines that would eventually run from the Jet A tank to the hangar sites.

Rio Grande Commissioner John Noffsker explained that though the utility lines would eventually run to the hangar sites, it would be a considerable amount of time before the project could be completed.

“In our conversations with SLVREC, costs for the project have nearly tripled in the last few years since our first conversation about the project and supply demand has increased as well," Noffsker said. "The transformers needed to complete the project of bringing utilities to the new hanger sites would not even be available for several months even if we did have the funding available to begin that phase of the project.”

As of now, the county has hired SLVREC to install utilities to the Jet A fuel tanks with the possibility of having those lines expanded to the new hangar sites located on the east side of the airport. Until that phase of the project is complete anyone wanting to lease a new hangar site would have to think about alternative ways to bring utilities to the hanger including solar or generator power.

“In the meantime, we really have to look at our lease agreements and revise them to meet the need of cost changes in the future once power can be expanded to the new hanger sites and the potential owners need to know that costs will go up after the utility project is completed,” Noffsker said.

Leases for the airport hangars have been 25-year leases that were created during a time when the airport was less popular and were drafted to entice pilots to come to the airport.

According to Noffsker, the airport has grown in popularity and the old lease agreements are no longer sustainable for the future growth of the airport.

“Now is the time to rethink the lease agreements to mirror what we are trying to do out there at the airport,” he said.

At the end of the conversation, the board opted to have Rio Grande County Attorney Nancy Lake review the lease agreement with Robinson and other county officials before moving forward with any concrete decisions. A work session has been scheduled to review the lease and other expansion options for the airport on March 31 at 9 a.m. in the Rio Grande County Commissioner chambers. The public is encouraged to attend.