MONTROSE – The Telluride and Montrose Regional Air Organization is getting some extra financial support from the communities it serves.
The Montrose City Council approved a new contract with TMRAO on Jan. 17 for the 2012 year, specifying that its contribution must be used for the area's summer airline program.
And Telluride and Mountain Village officials have said the same.
In early 2010, TMRAO, which works to guarantee airline services for the Montrose and Telluride airports, found itself in a situation where payouts to airlines to guarantee a minimum number of seats were exceeding its funding.
The organization reached out to its service area to raise $500,000, saying that the additional funding would enable it to lessen the expected impact of budget shortfalls by reducing the number of winter air service seats by only 15 percent rather than the projected 25 percent it would have to cut without the funding.
With those efforts, the organization secured $50,000 each from the City of Montrose, the Town of Telluride and the Town of Mountain Village, $100,000 from the Telluride Ski and Golf Company and $50,000 from the Mountain Village Owners Association.
By late fall, TMRAO had collected $400,000 in donations.
That brought the organization's budget to $2.8 million for its air guarantee program and at the time, enabled it to save all but 10 percent of its winter service.
But then US Airways notified the TMRAO in September that it would be canceling its Telluride service. That, combined with an unexpected reduction in the number of nonguaranteed seats on Montrose flights, created an approximate reduction of 18,800 seats – about a 20 percent decrease in service.
So the organization has approached its donors tak ask what to do with their money that is no longer needed to support the winter program.
Montrose, along with Telluride and Mountain Village, told the TMRAO to hold onto the money – $37,250 from each – and use it to support its summer program, which also is in distress.
“All three have requested that we try to keep the summer program, but realize it might not be at the level that it has been in the past,” TMRAO director Scott Stewart said.
The 2011 summer program had daily services out of Houston and Dallas, but Stewart expects that daily service will be discontinued, possibly replaced by weekly service, due to the combination of a decrease in funding and an increase in airline guarantee costs.
Stewart said he expected TMRAO to have approximately $300,000 to apply toward its 2012 summer program, compared to $950,000 in 2011.
“Our dollars have decreased a lot and we are in an environment where it costs more for fewer seats. That's why you probably won't see daily service, “ he said. “My guess is with the funds on hand, it might get us one or both of those markets for a twice-weekly service.”
Montrose's contract also specifies that the $170,000 the city set aside for the organization in its 2012 budget can also be used for the summer program.