TMRAO Asks Montrose for Short-Term Funding Support
by Kati O'Hare
Aug 16, 2012 | 1408 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

MONTROSE – The Montrose airport could see record passenger numbers next year, if its regional air organization is able to close the deal on a new, low-cost carrier and service to the area, but to make that happen, local support and funding is a must.

The Telluride-Montrose Regional Air Organization, which works to guarantee airline services for the region's airports, asked the City of Montrose earlier this month to budget $270,000 — $50,000 more than it gave last year – to help support a "game-changing" effort by the organization.

TMRAO is in deep discussions with a low-cost carrier with adequate regional support, said its director, Scott Stewart. If that deal closes, services could start this winter, providing year-round flights from two different markets.

That carrier is looking for start-up support, Stewart said.

In early 2011, TMRAO found itself in a situation where payouts to airlines purchasing a minimum number of seats exceeded its funding, and realized that continuing to operate in that manner would leave the organization broke by the end of 2012.

That news drove the organization to begin fundraising, so it could sustain itself, until a long-term solution could be found.

The City of Montrose gave an additional $50,000 on top of its already allocated $170,000 in its 2012 budget, and Stewart asked councilors to consider doubling that additional funding to $100,000, while maintaining that annual funding amount.

The towns of Telluride and Mountain Village gave $50,000 each toward the fundraising efforts; the ski resort pledged $100,000; the Telluride/Mountain Village Owners Association committed $50,000; and Leadership Circle, a development firm in Montrose, donated $20,000.

In this year’s TMRAO discussion with those entities, Telluride and Mountain Village both indicated support for the one-year special opportunity, Stewart said, and the resort has pledged to double its support, to $200,000. TMRAO also hopes to maintain the $35,000 in support from Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism.

Stewart said the air organization would not have been able to support any flights, without continuous support from these entities.

"The basic funding helps TMRAO continue with summer guarantee flights and the doubling of the supplemental for one year to $100,000 [from the City of Montrose] will help successfully launch the low-cost carrier service to a successful start that can sustain itself going forward and wouldn't require the same level of support in subsequent years," Stewart said.

During a budget discussion on Aug. 13, Montrose City councilors agreed to place $100,000 in its 2013 budget for TMRAO, "with the understanding that this figure is simply a placeholder until more information can be obtained from that organization," City Manager Bill Bell said.

"The council members have asked for specific data related to the return on our investment as it relates to retail enhancement and/or tourism and promotion," he said.

TMRAO has requested an executive session with councilors to further discuss the recent opportunity, and they may release more information on that carrier during that meeting.

Councilors had mixed reactions to the request.

"As an individual, I fully support Montrose Regional Airport, but I don't understand why it is so expensive," Councilor Carol McDermott said. "Airlines ”want their profits nailed down and won't take that risk,” she said. “That is not the American way."

Councilor Judy Ann Files emphasized the importance of the community’s continued and improved airline service. "We need to look at the impact of air travel for those of us who live in our community, use the airlines, and have businesses and jobs impacted by airlines, as well as service that impacts Telluride," she said.

Stewart said that winter services at Montrose Regional Airport, if the carrier deal goes through, could sell an additional 9,000 round-trip seats over last year. And with the possible added summer service, Montrose could see a record number of passengers for the next year, he said.



Kati O'Hare at kohare@watchnewspapers.com

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