Airport seeks Wyoming cash
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: February 7, 2013
Jackson Hole Airport wants $5 million from the state to get its new $18 million baggage system off the ground.
Town and county officials agreed Monday to back the airport’s application to the Wyoming Business Council for a $2 million grant and a $3 million loan.
The support didn’t come without doubts, though. New councilman Jim Stanford questioned the cost.
The upgraded baggage claim will take up more than 13,000 square feet of a new 30,000-square-foot building and include four 140-foot conveyor belts. The existing system is nearly 20 years old.
The business council program funds public infrastructure projects that support businesses and economic development.
Teton County developers and government agencies working on several projects were initially going to seek business council funds this spring.
The Town Council has voted to support two and delayed two. One has been withdrawn.
Town council members agreed Monday to support Vertical Harvest’s bid for $1.5 million to help build a three-story green-house downtown.
Two other plans are still on the table. Council members asked Imagine Jackson and Snow King Mountain Recreation to come back with more detailed plans. They also wanted to give residents time to review the proposals, which are available on the town’s website.
Imagine Jackson, run by former councilman Mark Obringer, is seeking $2.3 million to buy property next to Miller Park and build a business campus with shared workspace for entrepreneurs.
Snow King Mountain Recreation investors want to add mountain bike trails and more snowmaking machines to the town hill.
One group has withdrawn its proposal: Center Management Inc., operators of the Snow King Sports and Events Center, has delayed its request for $1.5 million to build an ice rink.
The nonprofit needs more time to nail down cost estimates, President and Chief Executive John Valiante said.
The Jackson Hole Energy Sustainability Project’s board will decide at its next meeting whether to apply for up to $1 million to buy the equipment needed to help start a compressed natural gas filling station in Jackson.
Teton County commissioners also will decide in two weeks whether to apply for money to connect the Adam’s Canyon area south of Jackson to the town’s sewer line.
Approval of the airport’s project came after Stanford questioned the spending.
“To me, when we look at a pathway project, we sometimes are micro-managing the handrail of a bridge” to control costs, Stanford said.
It’s different with the airport, Stanford said.
“No sooner than we finish one $20 or $30 million project than we are on to the next. When are we going to get to the point when this is it?”
But others believe the upgrade is necessary.
“That’s the number-one complaint my parents have had at Inn on the Creek — waiting on baggage,” Councilwoman Hailey Morton said.
Both boards voted unanimously to support the airport’s application.