New Fees Face Unfriendly Skies

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Fees for use of the Payson Municipal Airport could be increased to comply with the Payson town council's directive to reduce use of town general fund money by 20 percent.

The directive is part of the council's 2005-2006 Corporate Strategic Plan (CSP).

The council ranked the airport fifth among the 22 objectives in its latest plan. According to the CSP overview, "An adequate airport is an important amenity for our community. Continual improvements are needed to maintain its viability for economic development. The airport department will: develop and implement a business plan; continue to enhance revenues and control expenditures to make the airport as self-sustaining as possible."

Airport manager Ted Anderson presented the suggested increases to the airport advisory committee, with attendance near capacity, July 19.

"The last rates and fees adjustments for the airport were made in 1999," Anderson said.

Before he could outline the proposed increases, Gary Spragins, a member of the committee, offered a dissenting view.

"General aviation is an economic engine," he said. "The airport is a service -- just like the library, police and fire departments -- not a profit-making business. Many suffer from the opinion that local aviators are the only beneficiaries of the airport, that's wrong thinking."

Spragins said he was uncomfortable with raising the fees. He suggested instead of purchasing equipment and hiring additional personnel to take care of the multitude of jobs at the airport, the work be contracted out to local businesses.

The fees under consideration for increases are:

  • Access device -- the gate cards and clickers used to open gates to get planes onto the airport property from the residences with hangars in the Mazatzal Mountain Airpark subdivision ($20 for the clicker, $10 for card, plus deposits).
  • Access fee -- the cost of entering airport property is currently $15 a month; the fee would be raised to $57 per month if Anderson's recommendations are approved.
  • Airport Fuel Fees -- for maintenance of the fuel storage system (from 3 cents per gallon to 4 cents per gallon.
  • Airport Facility Use Fee -- non-government use by groups of fewer than 50, $50 each; more than 50, $75 each.
  • Airport Hourly Rate -- for airport employees, $30 to $50 per hour, one-and-a-half times that after hours.
  • Airport Kiosk Sign Rate -- ranges from $15 to $93.75 per month, depending on size of sign, or $144 to $900 annually.
  • Call Out Fees (after hours) -- aircraft accidents $100 minimum; snow removal, $250.
  • Campground Fee -- $15 per night, includes tie-down and use of campsite, firewood use, $5 per day or night.
  • Commercial Activities Landing Fee -- from $5 to $20 per landing, depending on weight of plane.
  • Late Fee -- $25.
  • Returned Check Fee -- $50.
  • Sweeper Fee -- $100 minimum and $50 per quarter hour.
  • Tied-Down Fees -- from $35 to $150 per month, depending on location.
  • Transient Parking Fees -- $5 to $50 per night depending on size of plane.
  • Vehicle/Trailer/RV Parking Fee -- $25 per month in airport storage area; $3 per night, with maximum of $45 per month for observation area (no charge for first seven days)

Chairman David Mumma asked Anderson whether action by the committee on the fees would only be a recommendation to the council. Anderson said the committee is only an advisory body, so what it decides is only a suggestion for action by the council.

"I can't believe we haven't had an increase since 1999. It's an absolute necessity to raise rates, but it has to be meaningful," Mumma said.

Several members of the large audience took turns behind the lectern.

"A little over nine months ago, Anderson asked the committee to recommend the airport be self-sustaining ... We were assured the raised would not impact local users," said Payson resident Jon Barber. He suggested the committee consider the financial impact of the airport in the equation of sustainability.

Anderson said he estimated the airport provides about an $8-million benefit to Payson.

"To make it self-sustaining without considering its contribution to the community and the economy is wrong and it should be looked at," said Spragins.

"The proposal to raise the rates for airport use is a bad thing. It is almost quadruple the current rate," said Mike Young. "The impact of local users is no different than that of transient aircraft. And off-airport users require no maintenance (by airport personnel). They're being asked to carry the burden. I'd submit this is not a fair tax."

Young said local pilots don't have a free ride, they support the local economy and they must pay taxes for their personal hangars.

Ernie Pritchard said it was his understanding from earlier agreements that off-airport users would pay a fee not to exceed half the tie-down fee.

"Look at the big picture," said Jim Garner. "Six years ago plans were made to relocate the (Airport) road to open the property for more airport related businesses. Let's not jump to raise fees when we're so close to that (becoming a reality) and the revenue it will generate. These fee issues could stop businesses from coming here." He added that he could see the justification for raising some fees, but not all of them.

The committee took no action on the proposed fees at the July 19 meeting.

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