Sweetwater County Commissioners Consider Airport Modernization Funding

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Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport Photo

SWEETWATER COUNTY– The Sweetwater County Commissioners approved a request at today’s meeting to consider a budget amendment at their next meeting, September 18, for design funding for a modernization project for the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport Commercial Airline Terminal.

Devon Brubaker, Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport director submitted the request, asking the commissioners to partner with the airport and the City of Rock Springs to fund the designing process of the Commercial Terminal Modernization project.

County Would be Responsible for $711,111 to Fund the Project Design

Brubaker asked the commissioners to consider assisting the airport in the amount of $711,111 to fund the design of the Commercial Terminal Modernization Project. This amount is two-thirds of the total estimated design cost of $1,066,667.

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The City of Rock Springs is being asked to fund the remaining one-third, a the total of $355,556. The Rock Springs City Council will be considering a budget amendment at their September 18 meeting.

When and if the Commercial Terminal Modernization project is funded, the cost of design is reimbursable at the grant match allocation. That reimbursement can then be re-invested back into the project to cover a portion of the local match, which would reduce the future funding request for the project.

Supplementary Appropriation Provides $1 Billion for Airport Infrastructure Improvements

Back in March, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which provided a supplemental appropriation of $1 billion in additional federal discretionary funding for airport infrastructure improvements.

The Act is dedicated to smaller, non-hub and general aviation airports. This Act is a supplemental appropriation of the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) which provides a grant of about $3.5 billion to airports annually for improvements.

As supplemental appropriations for the AIP are very rare, the competition for this $1 billion in funding is expected to be high. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has indicated that projects that already have design underway or completed will compete favorably for this additional grant.

Application for Funding Must be Submitted by October 31

To be considered by the FAA, Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport must have design underway and have the application submitted for funding by October 31. The entire $1 billion appropriation must be granted by the end of the Federal Fiscal Year 2020.

Brubaker and the Airport Board plan to be ready for bid by the fall of 2019, with construction starting in early 2020. They expect design to take about 10 months, so in total, the construction is slotted to take about 3 to 4 years.

Breakdown of Funding

The total project cost is estimated to be $10-14 million. Nationwide, commercial terminals average 75% eligibility for federal funding.

Assuming the total project cost will be $14 million with 75% eligibility for federal funding, the following are the estimates for funding with and without the supplementary AIP funding:

Funding With Supplementary AIP:

  • FAA- $9,843,750
  • WYDOT- $393,750
  • Local- $3,762,500

Funding Without Supplementary AIP:

  • FAA- $3 million
  • WYDOT- $4.5 million
  • Local- $6.5 million

The above estimates assume that the total project cost will be $14 million with 75% eligibility for federal funding. Brubaker believes up to 90 percent of the project could be eligible.

Project is “Becoming More Critical”

The Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport already has a project planned to start in 2021 to renovate and expand its Commercial Airline Terminal.

According to a letter addressed to the County Commissioners by Brubaker and Jim Wamsley, Airport Board Chairman, the project is “becoming more critical with each passing month of passenger growth.” The airport has seen 19 months of consistent growth.

Needed Improvements/Modernization

The current terminal was built in the 1970s and lacks in many ways. The Commercial Terminal Modernization project will correct the following outdated issues the airport currently has:

  • Undersized security checkpoint
  • Undersized post security gate/hold room for today’s and tomorrow’s aircraft
  • Poorly configured baggage claim
  • Inefficient building envelope (for energy efficiency)
  • Building life safety issues, such as no fire suppression sprinkler system, poor egress in certain areas, and limited handicap access impacting Americans with Disabilities Act compliance
  • Poorly arranged check-in and airline ticket office space
  • Poorly coordinated revenue generation space
  • Outdated terminal building aesthetics, both interior and exterior
  • Lack of natural light
  • Lack of aviation and landscape related views to promote aviation
  • Lack of public (non-secure) viewing and waiting space for meet/greet
  • Inadequate and poorly arranged terminal building vehicle parking that does not meet code


Other Business

Commissioner John Kolb reported that Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County discussed pulling its funds from Bank of the West at their recent financial meeting.

The Board of Trustees will discuss this further at their board meeting next week, Tuesday, September 12. This discussion follows the announcement made by Bank of the West that they will no longer do business with companies whose main activity is exploring, producing, distributing, marketing or trading oil and gas from shale and/or tar sands.

Both the county and the City of Rock Springs are working towards removing their funds from Bank of the West.