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BoCC votes to purchase airport land

Staff Writer

The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to purchase slightly more than 28 acres of land to add to Stevens Field, the Archuleta County airport.

During the meeting, the decision was called a “ten-year moment” — a moment the county would look back on as significant in 10 years.

The move came despite public comment asserting that the county was spending money on land no one else would want.

The property comes with a $200,000 price tag, $20,000 of which will come from Archuleta County coffers.

The purchase of the 28.68-acre parcel, Archuleta County staff said, will solve ongoing easement problems at the airport, with the property being a triangle of land located between the runway and taxiway.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Kate Alfred, airport manager, said the easement has been a problem for more than 12 years, with the property to be purchased planned as a buffer property that will not be developed.

The purchase of the property first came up in discussions with the county around November 2012, Todd Starr, county attorney and interim county administrator, indicated prior to the meeting. Starr recently held two executive sessions with the BoCC to discuss the land acquisition.

A tentative purchase agreement with the seller, Do Over Enterprises, was also in place prior to the BoCC decision on the purchase.

The $200,000 purchase price of the property is based on a December 2012 appraisal.

Despite the $200,000 purchase price and declining property tax revenues creating significant financial strain for the county, the BoCC members indicated they view the purchase as a good opportunity and that the county will not pay the full purchase price from its own coffers, with a grant already secured.

The vast majority of the purchase will be funded through a Colorado Department of Transportation Aeronautical grant, with Archuleta County paying $20,000 of the cost as a match.

The board, however, has yet to formally accept that grant, with Starr anticipating that will happen in the coming weeks.

Starr anticipated the county will close on the property in March.

At the meeting, the commissioners voiced their approval for the move, with Steve Wadley expressing he was glad the county could take care of the problem and Clifford Lucero calling it a, “good opportunity for Archuleta County and the Archuleta County airport.”

But members of the public in attendance at the meeting were not as keen on the idea.

With the session opened to public comment, the first member of the public to speak declined to give his name, asking if the 90 percent paid by grant funding had been secured, but the man left the meeting before an answer was given.

Next up, Jim Sawicki posed the question of who, other than the county, would want to purchase that land.

When told by Lucero that the question could not be discussed, Sawicki asked, “Why not?”

Starr said there were others interested in purchasing the property, perhaps as a location for hangars, but the purchase by another party would create additional problems with the FAA.

“The taxpayers of this county are sick of these matching grants,” Sawicki said, adding that no one would be able to insure any buildings on the property and indicating that problems would sort themselves out. “I am, personally, sick and tired of these stupid matching grants.”

Lucero noted that the BoCC answers to all constituents, not just Sawicki.

Dennis Spencer was the next to speak, asking if there were any strings attached to the grant.

Alfred responded that there were not, adding that the FAA looks favorably upon airports having buffer property.

Alfred also noted that the grant from CDOT Aeronautical is funded through sales tax levied on airport fuel.

Lucero then noted that the board and staff went through, “difficult negotiations,” and Commissioner Michael Whiting added that, while he was in favor of the deal, Sawicki’s comments should be taken into account.

randi@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on February 7, 2013.