Bayfield town trustees narrowly approved a resolution Tuesday evening supporting the property tax ballot question to build a new terminal at the Durango-La Plata County Airport (DRO). The vote was 4-3 in favor.
The vote was a follow-up to the Sept. 20 meeting, when La Plata County Economic Development Alliance director Roger Zalneraitis made a presentation supporting the need for a new terminal on the east side of the runway and other improvements, such as baggage handling and a place for larger jets to park overnight.
Audience member Ted Jack complained that there's a flight path over his house and too much plane noise already. "How will this benefit the town to have a bigger airport?" he asked.
Mayor Matt Salka is on the alliance board and supports the tax increase. In addition, he said, "As a small business owner, I do travel."
He speculated that a new bigger terminal could lower air fares, reduce flight delays, and create "more opportunity for people to succeed in their business." He cited problems with the baggage area and "facilities that are run down."
But trustee J.J. Sanders commented, "I get a lot of input from the seniors. They aren't very happy about the thing. I'm waiting to see what sort of benefits the town will get out of this."
Trustee Kristen Dallison agreed with Salka. "I can see it as a benefit to my work. We have four people that travel. I'm one of them. I think it's really important to look at how insufficient our airport is now."
Trustee Kelly Polites added, "We were shown information that our TSA (passenger security screening area) isn't up to date. The people I represent (as trustee) have families that don't live around here. You can't find flights to visit them, or they are very expensive. It's the one thing we lack here, a major airport."
She, Dallison, Salka, and Michelle Nelson-Yost voted for the resolution. Sanders, Rachel Davenport, and Matt Nyberg voted no.
At its September meeting, members of the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce unanimously voted to support the property tax question. Ignacio Chamber of Commerce members voted to endorse it in March.
The airport tax increase is issue 1B on the ballot that will be mailed to La Plata County voters the week of Oct. 17. Ballots must be returned to the County Clerk's Office by 7 p.m. on Nov. 8.