Airport adds operations center | AspenTimes.com

Airport adds operations center

Charles Agar

Sardy Field's new $12 million, 30,000-square-foot operations center is on the south side of the airport, across the runway from the terminal. (Contributed photo)

The new $12 million, 30,000-square-foot operations center to open at Sardy Field next month will house emergency and fire prevention teams, as well as snow removal crews.The sprawling new facility is on the south side of the airport, across the runway from the terminal. The building abuts Owl Creek Road and the bike path linking to Snowmass. The building’s central watch tower has phone, radio and Internet capability, and could act as a control center in the event of a larger emergency. The building houses staff training rooms, offices, crew day room, locker rooms for men and women, a workout room and two dorms with fold-out beds for crews on extended shifts in winter months. There are also three affordable housing units on site.

“I think we have one of the finest facilities of this sort for an airport of our size,” said Jim Elwood, airport director.One large garage bay will be home base for fire crews; it includes a wall lined with closets for fireman “silvers,” or shiny emergency fire suits. Elwood said airport emergency crews need to be able to reach the center of the tarmac in less than three minutes in the event of emergency.Another garage houses snow removal equipment. The new facility is part of a four-year effort to improve the airport’s reliability in winter by having plows and a blower on site. Until now, the equipment has been stored outside.

“We wear a lot of hats, and we have to gear up whether it snows 2 inches or 3 feet,” Elwood said.From the road, the building looks like a condominium development, complete with rough stone facing and wood clapboard. “We wanted to be environmentally friendly, look good from the road and minimize the size of the building,” Elwood said. The roof over the garage is covered in sod and looks like a hillside from the highway. The airport spent $400,000 in landscaping to ensure that the facility tucks back into the hillside. “We wanted to create a nice transition,” Elwood said.

“We’re starting to put a few pieces in here, but the building is not 100 percent complete,” Elwood said. The grand opening will be Sept. 26.The expansion used no local tax dollars. The federal government provided $10 million in funding, and $2 million came from the airport’s enterprise fund.

The Pitkin County Airport has spent more than $40 million in capital improvements over the past four years. The money has gone to add snow removal capabilities and additional plows, a new taxiway and a new operations center.What’s to comeThe airport will be closed from Monday, April 9, through Thursday, June 7, 2007 for rehabilitation of the runway. Some facts about the runway project: First stages of the runway project, including building of a small asphalt plant and gravel-making area, will begin in the fall of ’06, but the airport will stay open. The new runway surface will be the same width, 100 feet, with additional area for emergency and snow vehicles. After the runway is finished in June, the airport will close occasionally for runway surface upgrades.Other projectsThe Pitkin County commissioners have approved an environmental study for a runway extension of up to 1,000 feet. Construction will not begin until the study is complete and the commissioners revisit the issues, probably sometime in 2008.The county is also considering a new terminal building at Sardy Field. The idea is in the discussion stage at this point.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.