After months of indecision, the City Council is likely to vote Tuesday against getting into the airport business.

The owners of Skypark Airport, 1887 S. 1800 West, asked the council last summer to convert the airport to a special services district - a government entity with the power to tax.With that power, and with government grants available to public airports, the owners were hoping to get out of a $300,000 debt.

Skypark is the only one of of Utah's 55 public-use airports that is privately owned. With 45 private hangars, it's worth about $2 million.

"I've got an airport that I'd like to unload," said Dal Wayment, one of the owners. "We basically just can't compete - the rates that we can charge and the way we do business is dictated by the funding."

Skypark is the only airport in Davis County, so many council members initially believed the proposal was a good idea. Making the airport public could very well boost Woods Cross as a major player in county economics, they thought. The newly available government grants would take care of the red ink, and Woods Cross' new crown jewel would be on its way.

But soon problems cropped up. It turns out the grants would not be so easy to get after all.

"Being public is only one step to being qualified (for grants)," said Matt Cavanaugh, manager of the safety and standards branch of the Federal Aviation Administration Airports Division. "Financial stability is a strict requirement - they must demonstrate financial resources to run the airport 20 years after grant acceptance."

Cavanaugh added that the $300,000 debt would be a huge obstacle to getting money, and as to whether grants could be obtained to get out of debt, "It never happens."

Phillip Ashbaker, director of the Aeronautics Division of the Utah Department of Transportation, said, "Skypark will never qualify for federal government help, and that's the only thing they would gain being a public entity. The state would be very reluctant to give them grants given their financial status."

Wayment points to the taxing power if grants are denied, but there are problems there, too.

In order to tax, the district would need the vote of its electors - people residing within the district. But the airport has no residents. No one can vote on a tax.

"If the statute is not changed, then the district would be unable to tax since they would not have the ability to hold the necessary election," said City Manager Gary Uresk in a memo to the council. "It is important the district have this power prior to becoming a viable special service district."

The owners have a bill pending in the state legislature to confer taxing power without resident electors, but their attorney, Mark Andersen, said he's "not prepared to predict" whether the bill will pass.

As if that weren't enough, members of the council have a problem with what they perceive as the recreational nature of the airport. They had hoped to have an airport that brought business in, especially with a growing industrial park next door, but right now they mainly see people flying in and out for fun.

"Do we want to see it as a viable (business) entity or a place where people can do their hobbies?" Mayor Jerry Larrabee asked.

Not surprisingly, Wayment contends the airport is business-oriented.

"We're seeing a lot of economic activity basically just on the promise that this is going to be a public entity," he said, citing a new helicopter repair facility next door and taxiways right to the doors of businesses in the industrial park. "(The airport has) 126 airplanes - the local community gets a lot of benefits they don't realize."

But the weight of so many complications appears to have crushed the council's initial enthusiasm for the venture.

"I'm so unclear about so many issues that there is no way right now that I would vote to make a special services district," Councilman Wayne Saltzgiver said in a Jan. 26 meeting.

Councilmen Bud Haacke and Larry Landward echoed Saltzgiver's sentiments.

Wayment dismisses the problems by returning to the grants - if the airport is just made public, he says, it has a good chance of getting the grants, and all other problems will be irrelevant.

But Uresk disagrees.

"They're looking at pie in the sky with these grants," he said in the meeting. "They're hinging everything on these grants, and it's just not going to happen."

The council is scheduled to vote on the matter Tuesday.