Lander mulling funding options to support commercial air service

The Lander City Council will consider several options next month for fulfilling a $145,000 funding request to support commercial air service in Fremont County.

The request was initially submitted to the Lander Investment for Tomorrow group, which helps guide the distribution of Lander’s half percent sales tax money.

But LIFT policies require its distributions to go to organizations located within Lander city limits, and Central Wyoming Regional Airport is in Riverton, so the request was denied.

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Funding options

During a work session last week, the city council considered modifying LIFT rules to allow for distributions to support commercial air service.

Several councilmembers spoke against the idea, however, including Councilmember Melinda Cox.

“I’m certainly not in favor of making any adjustments to what our parameters have been … for our LIFT committee,” Cox said. “I think we have a duty to our citizens in this community to ensure that those dollars are being spent as we said they were going to be.”

Instead of changing the LIFT rules, Councilmember Julia Stuble suggested the council could work outside of the committee process to allocate some half percent money to commercial air service directly.

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“That strikes me as more efficient – for the council to make the decision,” Stuble said. “Then LIFT can concentrate on fostering the development of projects and businesses here in Lander.”

But Councilmember Chris Hulme said he would prefer using another source of funding altogether.

“I do agree with the idea of covering (commercial air service),” he said. “(But not) out of our half cent tax fund. I don’t think the money should come from there. … I think that there are more creative ways to fund it.”

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The city could use American Rescue Plan Act money, he said, or allocate some general fund dollars to fulfill the funding request.

Those ideas both represent a “short-term fix,” Mayor Monte Richardson said, but he also expressed concern about covering the increased cost for commercial air service “in the future.”

“I’d much rather have that conversation,” Cox agreed. “(Let’s) find a way to fund the air service appropriately, where we’re not changing what voters voted on.”

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The council will continue the discussion during a work session Dec. 20.

For more information call the City of Lander at 332-2870.

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