The Taos Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday (March 11) to spend almost a half million dollars in order to keep a runway expansion project at the Taos Municipal Airport moving forward.
The bulk of the multimillion dollar airport project is being funded with a federal grant, but the town is required to provide a local match. Tuesday’s vote to approve the $486,000 match for the first phase of the project will allow the town to apply for the grant before a deadline passes in the coming weeks.
While the town has been trying for decades to get the airport expansion done, finding the cash to pay its share of the project has been a challenge since it began to gain steam in 2011. The town’s money for the match will come from $350,000 already set aside by the council with the remaining $136,000 coming from surplus tax revenue. The town will need to come up with additional funds to cover the second phase of the project.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first for Mayor Dan Barrone and council members Fritz Hahn and Judi Cantú, who were all elected in municipal elections last week.
As a Taos County Commissioner (a position he still holds), Barrone opposed the town’s attempts to annex the airport in order to collect tax revenue from construction in order to pay for the project. Barrone noted Tuesday that he still opposed the annexation but has always supported the airport project itself as an important part of economic development.
Before being elected, Hahn and Cantú expressed reservations about the airport, suggesting it would only help Taos’ most wealthy residents and visitors. Both voted to move forward with the project Tuesday.
Hahn said Tuesday he felt like the new council was being “sandbagged” by having to vote on such a big-ticket item just a week after being elected. Hahn said he initially intended to ask that the vote be postponed, but because of the deadline, he said he would defer to town staff’s suggestion that the money be approved and the grant application be submitted.
Hahn also said he’d been assured by town staff that the match money was not taking away from more basic infrastructure needs like roads and sewers — issues he ran heavily on during the campaign.
For more on this story, see the March 13 edition of The Taos News.