SAGUACHE — For the past several months, Saguache County Commissioners have been trading a contract back and forth between Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) Colorado president Constantin Diehl and county attorney Ben Gibbons regarding potential uses of Leach Airport near Center.
Drafts of the contract still are not finalized, airport manager Wendi Maez said Tuesday but should be ready by July 1. The board has authorized Commissioner Ken Anderson to execute the contract.
“Time is of the essence the way we anticipate it going,” former county commissioner and former airport manager Mike Spearman said.
Maez told the board the new well and RV connections at the airport are working and the county is currently resolving issues with the septic system.
During a meeting in April, Diehl addressed commissioners to discuss an early draft of the plan. At that time Diehl mentioned that if and when a drone company plans to come here, water is now available for them at the airport. It apparently is also available for others to haul for a fee, including local marijuana growers.
Commissioner Ken Anderson broached the possibility at the meeting, suggesting a meter be put in at the well that would accept credit cards. Commissioner Jason Anderson qualified the comment, adding, “We are in the water business, not the marijuana business.” But the two components are a perfect match, and growers who came before commissioners last month mentioned the availability of water from the county at Leach.
Anderson noted the airport would serve as a multi-purpose place and would still be open to the public and function primarily as an airport.
In 2015, The Denver Post reported the Valley would serve as an 8,000 square mile test site for flights to heights of up to 15,000 feet. Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) Colorado is a Colorado-based consortium of more than 100 industry, research and economic development stakeholders who are working to make Colorado a leader in the unmanned aircraft industry. UAS representatives have been working with Valley counties since 2014 to base training operations at Valley airports.
Additionally, airport managers and county commissioners have partnered to improve local facilities in support of extended UAS operations. When Spearman was project coordinator for Leach airport he directed “High Altitude UAV Testing” in Saguache County and said the county has added specific areas for conducting UAS operations as well as added improvements to make multi-day operations feasible without having to leave the airport.
UAV operators will be able to park their equipment, set up their ground infrastructure and support teams for as long as necessary to accomplish their objectives. Fuel is available for aircraft. Secure overnight clean storage areas are available for UAV’s as well as adequate electrical outlets for charging batteries. Outdoor shaded areas with tables and propane grill are available, so is a lounge/conference room with conference table, refrigerator, microwave, water, telephone, Wi Fi and bathrooms.
Further improvements also are underway at the airport.