Utah's Community Impact Board has stepped to the plate to help out Wendover and its stalled airport expansion project.
The board on Thursday gave Tooele County a $400,000 grant for interest on a bank loan the county hopes to secure for Wendover.County Commissioner Teryl Hunsaker said the money should enable the county to borrow the $1.7 million needed to start paying off the nearly $3 million owed to Gibbons & Reed Co. for work already done.
If the county contributes that much, the Federal Aviation Administration will free $3 million in grants toward completing the $9 million runway, Hunsaker said.
The board, which divvies up mineral royalties to pay for public facilities, refused the county's request to borrow the full $1.7 million.
But Hunsaker felt lucky to get the grant.
The mineral royalty money normally is reserved for counties that contribute to the fund through substantial oil-and-gas or coal-mining royalties.
Tooele County previously had failed to persuade Gov. Mike Leavitt and the Legislature to rescue Wendover, which faced bankruptcy because of its airport bills.
"Our last jump was to the CIB, where we really didn't belong," Hunsaker said. "And they chose to help us."
Wendover launched the airport expansion when casinos in neighboring West Wendover, Nev., contracted with an airline to fly clients there. That contract fell through, and Wendover was left holding the bill for an unfinished expansion big enough to land large jetliners.
The grant is far from an assurance that Wendover will finish the job, but supporters are counting on more federal grants. The county has worked with Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, to find the money.
"We're delighted," said Wendover City Manager Art Mar-tines after he learned of the $400,000 grant. "That's the beginning of our process to complete the airport."
Community Impact Board Administrator Shirl Clarke said that even though mineral money normally would not go to a mineral-poor city like Wendover, Tooele County made a good case for the airport's value to Utah.