Let there be light: City to seek funds for airport lighting
Two Glenwood Springs City Council members voiced uncertainties about the long-term future of the city’s airport Thursday when asked to support a grant for new airport lighting.Mayor Larry Emery and council member Joe O’Donnell joined the rest of council in agreeing to seek the grant, but only after council qualified its resolution so the city would only have to pay back any of the grant money to the state if the airport closes within the next decade.The city is seeking $57,367 from the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division and would cover the remainder of the $71,709 cost out of its airport fund. The daytime lights would be a navigational aid for pilots, alerting them if they are flying too high or low during their approaches to the airport.City manager Jeff Hecksel said he has been told the system could have a useful life of 30 years. If the city closed the airport before the system’s useful life, it would have to repay the state for the depreciated value of the portion of the lighting system funded by the grant.Glenwood Springs officials and residents have debated the future of the airport for years. In 1997, city residents resoundingly voted in favor of keeping the airport open. In 2003, council members found themselves split on the issue, and considered putting the matter to voters again, but it never went to a public vote.As of last fall, about 60 airplanes were based at the airport, and it also has been used for medical flights. However, some contend the property would be better used for other purposes, and creates a safety hazard for nearby homes. Last fall, a plane crashed between two townhouse on Mount Sopris Drive when it missed an approach to the airport. The pilot suffered relatively minor injuries and no one was hurt on the ground.O’Donnell expressed concern Thursday that if a future City Council wants to close the airport but the lighting system isn’t fully depreciated by then, it would be more expensive to shut down the facility.Emery also questioned saddling future City Councils with higher costs to close the airport by seeking grants that the city might have to partly repay many years later.”I just think it’s a bad plan long-term,” he said.He said he believes the city eventually will have to address the long-term future of the airport.Council member Bruce Christensen said that for now, the city operates an airport, and if it has an opportunity to make upgrades at the facility it should do so.He also questioned whether the lighting system would last 30 years. Council unanimously agreed to pursue the grant after qualifying the request to stipulate that the lighting system would be considered to have a 10-year life span.
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