This small, western Utah city may be down on its financial luck, but the folks who live in Wendover refuse to believe their community is out.

Like a gambler who always believes he can draw that extra ace, Ira Sly echoes the optimism of many residents who don't think their city will have to file for bankruptcy because of the "problem.""They (city or county officials) are going to come up with the money" to pay for expansion of the Wendover Airport, said Sly, who moved here two years ago.

"It isn't as bad as the media makes it out to be," he said. "It's just a delay. . . . It's all going to come out in the end."

The "problem" is that the city needs to scrape together $3 million in a hurry to ensure completion of the $8.8 million airport expansion or face a multimillion-dollar lawsuit from the project contractor.

At worst, the suit could force the city to file for bankruptcy and become insolvent - possibly leading to disincorporation.

At best, if the runway is finished and the casinos just across the border restore a now-defunct air charter service, Wendover City could once again rake in about 40 percent of its annual income from airport-related revenues.

Former Mayor Glen Beck, who guided the city from 1984 through 1988, is a little less optimistic about the city's outlook than Sly. But he remains hopeful.

"It's a tough situation," he said. "I don't know if they can come up with that kind of money or not. All they can do is try."

Several residents here said last week they're concerned about the city's future, disillusioned by the lack of cooperation among casinos and feel betrayed by Utah's governor and lawmakers.

"I personally thought the state would bail us out at one time," said Gordon Stewart, who moved here 41 years ago. "I was surprised the Legislature didn't help.

"But I think somebody needs to step in," he said. "It's a big airport. It could be viable.

"I think expanding the airport was a good idea at the time," Stewart added. "It was up and working well" until the air carrier providing charter flights for casinos lost its federal certification.

Like several other residents, Stewart said he's wondered about the consequences of going bankrupt and isn't sure how that would affect him or his community.

"If there is a bankruptcy, it would probably be a Chapter 9," said Tooele County Commissioner Gary Griffith. "It's similar to a Chapter 11 (reorganization bankruptcy) with a few different hitches, it's very seldom used."

He also noted a bankruptcy attorney and bonding counsel have advised commissioners filing a Chapter 9 would not affect state or county bond ratings.

The prospect of bankruptcy, however, doesn't sit well with Patti Ratliffe. She lived all her life in eastern Wendover until moving to the Nevada side two years ago, and she said her ties are still there.

"Nobody wants to go bankrupt," she said. "People don't want to disincorporate. They want to stay a city. I just hope they can work it out, because the airport would be a big asset."

Griffith and Commission Chairman Teryl Hunsaker say the county remains committed to helping Wendover find a solution.

"We're still pretty optimistic about it," Hunsaker said. "We've got a couple of options we're working on but don't want to talk about it until we find out whether one of them works out."

Annie Beck, the wife of the former mayor, said she hopes they're right because she doesn't want to go back to being unincorporated.

"It would be like it was when we moved here in 1970," she warned. "All we had was a deputy sheriff . . . and no fire protection.

"But I'm just afraid that they've dug a hole too deep for us to get out of," Beck added.

Rita Freeman, a former East Wendover resident who now lives on the Nevada side but works in Utah, said some people in the community are trying to assign blame for the city's financial crisis.

"It's nobody's fault," said Freeman, who used to work as a refueler at the airport. "Some people are blaming it on the former mayor (Brenda Morgan). That's not fair."

All parties acted in good faith, she said, and the loss of the air carrier was one of those things no one could predict.

Still, Freeman is one of the many local residents who wonder why the Nevada casinos won't jointly put up money to restore the air charter service.

"If they will cooperate, we might get somewhere," she added.

Judy Dabi agrees. "They could all benefit from the tourists and gamblers," she said. "If they would have cooperated (last year), it would still be working."

But Dabi, a native Israeli who came to Wendover 14 years ago to open a dance studio, said state officials in Utah aren't proving any more cooperative than the casinos.

"People always call Wendover the little bastard child of Tooele County . . . the place nobody cares about," she said. "I don't understand that."

Dabi and other Wendover residents point out that both the Utah and Nevada sides of the cities, including the casinos, buy most of their goods and services from Wasatch Front businesses and contribute far more to Utah's tax base than Nevada's.

"Eventually, for the future of this town, we need the airport," Dabi said. "It's the only thing we have on the Utah side. It's just not fair that nobody is helping."