Tooele County Commissioner Teryl Hunsaker found some support from Wasatch Front mayors and commissioners Thursday in his quest to save Wendover from bankruptcy.
Hunsaker, who has spent so much time seeking financial aid lately he's worried about being cited for panhandling, said he plans to ask the state's Community Impact Board next week for a $1.7 million loan to help bail out the beleaguered Utah city.Now he will have a letter of support from the Wasatch Front Regional Council urging the board to approve the loan to Tooele County so work can resume on Wendover's fiscally troubled airport.
The council, which includes elected officials from five Wasatch Front counties, unanimously threw their support behind Tooele's request for a loan.
City and council officials have been scrambling for weeks to find about $3 million that Wendover needs to stave off a lawsuit from the contractor that is still on the hook for an $8.8 million airport runway expansion project.
The plan is to use the $3 million to leverage a $2.5 million bank loan. Tooele County has agreed to be the co-signer. That would provide enough money to complete the extension and widen the airport's main runway.
If that plan fails and the contractor sues, Wendover faces the prospect of having to file bankruptcy and may have to disincorporate.
Hunsaker told council members federal and state aviation grants would provide more than $4 million once the project is completed.
But the city and county will have to raise the $5.5 million for runway construction first, he said.
After the 1998 Utah Legislature ignored Wendover's pleas for financial assistance, commissioners and city officials started looking for other sources of funding.
Congressman Jim Hansen, R-Utah, has indicated he can find about half of the $3 million if Wendover or the county can come up with the rest.
Based on Hansen's encouragement, Hunsaker will go before the Community Impact Board next week with his hat in hand once again.
"We're just asking for a little help for a community that has worked itself into a hole," he told council members. "To make this gel, we need $1.7 million up front."
He assured council members that finishing the airport, which should encourage the renewal of air charter flights, "is the best way to help make Wendover a financially viable city."
Before last year, when federal authorities revoked the certification of an air carrier that had provided the air charter service, roughly 40 percent of Wendover's annual city budget was generated by airport-related revenues.
Following the council meeting, Hunsaker said it will probably be difficult to get a loan from the state's impact board because its revenues come from mineral leases and usually are earmarked for mineral-producing counties.
Tooele County doesn't have much in the way of mineral leases, he conceded.
"We'll kind of be down on our knees," the commissioner added, "because we're not a big player in that program."