A big new building at the north end of the Casper-Natrona County International Airport now shelters the big equipment needed to plow the big runways when the big storms blanket central Wyoming.

"This replaces a series of buildings that were built in 1942 ... when the airport was originally developed," airport manager Glenn Januska said Thursday.

"We've been operating out of temporary (buildings) because they weren't meant to last to 2017," he said after the dedication of the 27,000-square-foot building.

It cost about $5.4 million. The Federal Aviation Administration paid for about 65 percent of it, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation paid for the rest, Januska said.

During the dedication, WYDOT Director Bill Panos said airports are critical in rural states for economic development and connections elsewhere for business, recreation and medical care.

Januska said the building has shops, administrative offices, storage space, a full kitchen, showers, back-up generators, gas and propane, equipment and vehicle storage, and bunks. If a major storm blankets the airport for days and the eight employees can't make it to their homes, they can stay on site, he said.

The employees, Januska said, do everything: snow removal, mowing, maintenance of the 14 miles of road and about 125 buildings on the 5,350-acre (8.4-square-mile) site with its runways (the longest is 10,150 feet), electrical work, carpentry, runway striping, and vehicle maintenance, to name a few.

"It's a small staff that does a lot of work, a variety of work," he said.

The airport intends to expand the space in two phases to a total of 75,000 square feet, but that probably won't happen for five years, he said.

"The important thing is, as we've gotten bigger pieces of equipment that we need to develop to operate the airport safely, we now have facilities," Januska said.

The facilities that have stored the equipment were erected in the early 1940s. World War II was raging, and the Army Air Corps needed a high-altitude air base and chose Casper. In a short amount of time, the military built one of the longest runways in the Rocky Mountain region, scores of barracks, hospitals, a jail, hangars and roads.

Those 75-year-old structures, which were intended to be temporary, are still used to house smaller equipment, Januska said.

The new building is more efficient, Januska said. For example, when the large doors open in the winter, the warm air leaves with the plows. So the building has heated floors to restore the heat, he said.

The machines include a massive $603,000 MB plow/broom combo, a monstrous $673,000 snow-eating plow/blower vehicle, and a machine to lay down de-icer chemicals.

But they need safe homes.

For example, the airport could have taken delivery of the MB plow last year, but it didn't because it had no place to put it and it wouldn't store it outside, Januska said. "This building allows us to acquire that equipment that's needed, state-of-the-art equipment to maintain the airport safely and efficiently."