Let the unfamiliar words roll trippingly from the tongue: Tooele County Airport.

And don't forget to add the phrase, "in Wendover."Tooele County went into the public airport business Tuesday, accepting ownership of the financially strapped Wendover Airport and agreeing to borrow $1.3 million to finish a runway project that has threatened to force Wendover into bankruptcy.

A resolution approving the concept of transferring ownership of the airport to the county and arranging the loan was approved 3-0 at Tuesday's commission meeting.

This plan will allow the county to complete construction on the first 8,000 feet of the unfinished 10,000-foot main runway as soon as commissioners can put the loan package together.

Meantime, the commission will be counting on Congressman Jim Hansen to come up with an additional $1.5 million in federal aviation money to finish off the remaining 2,000 feet.

Commissioners also fired off a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration regional office in Denver asking the agency to deed over to the county all airport property conveyed to Wendover in a 1977 quit claim deed.

Once the first portion of the runway is complete, the airport will qualify for between $4 million and $5 million in FAA grants that can be used to pay the balance of the $8.8 million runway expansion.

And the bailout plan shouldn't cost county taxpayers any money in the long run because revenues from landing fees and refueling income should be sufficient to pay back the loan, Commissioner Gary Griffith said.

"There may be some up-front costs" for the county, he conceded, "but that money would be a loan and will be paid back."

Wendover's City Council signed off on the plan April 15 when it voted to turn the airport over to the county. That action ensures Wendover won't be sued by Gibbons and Reed, the contractor building the runway, which has only been paid for part of the runway work done to date.

Such a lawsuit could have plunged the city into municipal bankruptcy and possibly forced its disincorporation.

The $1.5 million grant tentatively being arranged by Hansen "is still a question mark," Griffith said, so the county will hold off finishing the last 2,000 feet of the runway until the federal money is firm.

Commissioners indicated the longer, wider runway also will bolster the economy of Wendover by attracting businesses that will spring up around the airport.

And within about four to five years, Griffith added, a financial plan forecasting airport revenues is projecting casinos will re-establish an air charter program that once brought thousands of gamblers to West Wendover.

The so-called "fly program" crashed in 1996 when the air carrier operating the charter service lost its federal certification.

In its heyday, the commissioner said, the charter program accounted for 60,000 deplanements a year and made the airport one of the busiest in Utah.

But Griffith also stressed the future of the airport does not hinge on the casinos re-establishing the charter service.

Steady growth in western Tooele County, the need for backup military landing strips and demands that will be created by the 2002 Winter Olympics will help ensure enough revenue to pay back the loan, he added.