SWEETWATER COUNTY– The Sweetwater County Commissioners approved on Tuesday an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Wyoming Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division as per the Wyoming Commercial Service Capacity Purchase Program.
The Wyoming Commercial Service Capacity Purchase Program is an agreement between the airports in Sweetwater County, Gillette, Sheridan, and Riverton to operate under one airline. Instead of each community having its own contract with an airline, there is a MOU between the counties, the airline, and the State of Wyoming.
The airline selected was SkyWest, which had been providing air service in Rock Springs and Gillette. The other airline that put in was Denver Airline Connection, which served Riverton and Sheridan. The decision to have SkyWest serve all four communities was made by a state appointment selection committee.
The Capacity Purchasing Agreement was born from Senate File 40- Commercial Air Service Improvement, which was passed in 2018 by the Wyoming Legislature. With this bill, the Commercial Service Improvement Council was created, which Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport director, Devon Brubaker, and 11 others were appointed to. Through their efforts Brubaker and the council created the Capacity Purchase Program.
The first agreement involved in this program is between SkyWest and WYDOT. Brubaker said now that the airport does not have its own contract with SkyWest, that contract now exists between the airline and WYDOT. That agreement has already been signed prior to Tuesday’s commissioner meeting. However it was pending approval of the MOU between WYDOT and the four communities.
According to Brubaker, the contract between the airline and WYDOT will still work even if only two communities sign their own MOUs.
The contract between SkyWest and WYDOT does the following:
- covers air service in all four communities
- provides state and local control over airfare (flights between airport and Denver)
- provides for performance requirements
The performance requirements requires the airline to meet or exceed industry “on time” and “completion” percentages.
“We’re really happy to have that,” Brubaker said.
The second agreement involved in this program is the one that involves Sweetwater County, which is the MOU between WYDOT and the county. The current air service delivery contract is between SkyWest and the county, and then there is a grant between the county and the state that covers 60 percent of the costs.
The new MOU, which the commissioners approved of Tuesday, is between WYDOT and Sweetwater County. WYDOT pays the bill sent to them by SkyWest, and then WYDOT will invoice the county the local portion, which is 40 percent. WYDOT pays the other 60 percent.
Another difference with the new agreement is that it has a revenue sharing component. Brubaker explained that there are months where the airport profits rather than has a loss. In the past, SkyWest got to keep 100 percent of those profits. Under this new program, the airport gets credit for the profits. Those profits will be put into the airport’s account and it will offset future deficits.
The MOU is a three-year agreement and then has the option to renew it for another three years, and then another four years after that.
The third agreement is a cooperative between the county and the cities of Rock Springs and Green River. Brubaker said this agreement is nearly identical to the MOUs the county has been signing for years.
This agreement will determine how the county and two cities will share the local portion. The commissioners unanimously approved this cooperative as well.