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Adams Co. commissioners approve taking control of Front Range Airport

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By The Staff

BRIGHTON — Adams County is taking control of operating Front Range Airport in Watkins.

The Adams County Board of Commissioners held a special public hearing Dec. 11 to adopt the airport into its departmental services structure, a move which transfers control from the Front Range Airport Authority.

The move was made to bring “valuable stability, resources and accountability” to the airport, according to Commissioner Eva Henry.

“Adams County is making a decisive move to ensure the long-term success of Front Range Airport,” said Henry. “This new structure provides long-term stability for Front Range Airport businesses, as well as the customers who rely on those businesses. Employees will benefit from the airport’s increased economic stability and the county’s employee benefit program. The move also makes it possible to operate the airport more economically by streamlining airport services with existing county services.”

The airport — with an annual budget of about $2.5 million — has been both a source of concern and hope in recent months. While Spaceport Colorado has announced a proposal to build a massive research and development center near the airport, former director Dennis Heap was let go by the county earlier this year.

According to commissioners, bringing Front Range Airport into the county’s fold will help provide better transparency for the county resources devoted to it, as well as boosting efficiency by using the county’s current services for finance, technical services and communications.

An Airport Advisory Board will be put in place to provide recommendations to the county commissioners, County Manager Todd Leopold and interim airport director Ken Lawson on the strategic direction of the airport. Members will include representation from airport tenants, aviation professionals, on- and off-airport business owners, and marketing professionals, as well as others deemed critical to the success of the airport.

Additionally, the county will move to hire a permanent airport director in the coming weeks.

The advisory board also would take the lead in pursuing the Spaceport Colorado proposal and development, with the county commissioners supporting efforts to obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration for a Spaceport designation.