Town approves airport budget after carving out $320k

JACKSON, Wyo. — Town and county officials approved the Jackson Hole Airport budget after some scrutiny and discussion this week.

County commissioners approved the airport’s budget at a May 4 joint meeting. At that meeting, town council chose to review the airport budget on its own.

The town signed off on the budget but not before councilors pushed to ask airport director Jim Elwood to pencil in a quarter-million bucks to fight any forest fires that might be made if Tony Chambers crashes his helicopter. Chambers is the owner-operator of Wind River Air.

Councilmembers, notably Arne Jorgensen, also wanted money out of the airport budget to use to hire a lobbyist to inform the FAA and any other federal oversight group that locals don’t like to be told how to run airports in their community. Another $70,000 was carved out for that advocacy program.

Elwood said it seemed “worth discussing” to him but he would have to pass that decision along to the board.

Councilman Jim Stanford led the line-item look into the airport budget. He wanted to know why $1.4 million was set aside for renovations to the terminal when that work was just completed and the terminal looked fine to Stanford.

Elwood pointed to aging infrastructure in the area after security and waiting for a place as the reason for that budget item.

“How much debt is the airport carrying?” Stanford asked

“A total of 22.44 million, which is quite low for an airport of our size and scope,” Elwood responded.

“Last year, your budget was just north of $42 million. What is it now?”

“$74.880 million,” Elwood said.

“The budget has risen a thousand percent in 10 years. There’s no doubt the amount of spending has increased exponentially. We have to keep this in context. During my tenure on the council I’ve seen this budget take off faster than a 747,” Stanford challenged.

Elwood said the numbers had to be “peeled back a bit” to see the reality behind some increases. “In the end, the airport is still about planes coming and going.”

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