Natrona County Commissioners Approves Airport Funding
At the Natrona County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday evening, they unanimously voted to approve money to the Casper/Natrona County International Airport, which is in danger of losing the remaining flight to Salt Lake City.
Because of COVID-19 and the rise in cases due to the delta variant, SkyWest, through Delta, has discontinued one of the two flights the airport sends daily to Salt Lake City, and unless the airport is able to provide them a minimum revenue guarantee (MRG), the remaining flight will be discontinued as well.
That is why Glenn Januska, director of the Casper/Natrona County International Airport, went to the commission to try and get them to pay for 60% of the 755,032 they are requesting, with the state paying the other 40%.
That is where the commission comes in, who didn't approve giving any money yet, but rather voiced their support for Januska to go to SkyWest and let them know the county will offer the 60% needed for the MRG.
While Januska said he is unsure when exactly he can get the application finished and in front of the commission, he hopes to have things finalized and ready for them to look at before their next meeting on Oct. 19.
At the commissioner meeting in the afternoon, Januska talked to the board about the need for the MRG, which they to responded by asking him to come back later in the day when they were less busy.
During the afternoon meeting, commissioner Rob Hendry said he didn't like that they were being blackmailed by the airline to either pay for the MRG or loss the flight.
Januska said that the airline has said they will only operate where it is profitable to do so, and if they don't get the MRG, SkyWest will end up operating at a loss, which will cause them to take their plane that currently runs the flight from Casper to Salt Lake City, elsewhere.
While it is possible for the airport to lose the connection to Salt Lake City and then reacquire it when air travel improves, Januska said it would be more difficult to get back the flight than it would be to hold onto the connection.
At the commissioners regular meeting later in the day, eight people spoke, several from the Advance Casper Board, in favor of the county giving money to support the airport, with Mayor Steve Freel also sending the commission a letter voicing his support.
When discussing whether to vote in favor of offering support to the airport, commissioners Rob Hendry, Jim Milne, and Dave North all talked about how they had originally thought they shouldn't provide money to the airport, but after hearing testimony about the importance of the Salt Lake City connection, changed their minds.
Chairman Paul Bertoglio said that while he supports helping out the airport, he will still try to get Casper, and the surrounding towns, to assist the county in funding an MRG to SkyWest.