Airport fee hikes proposed
Here’s a heads up for those who fly or drive at the Lake Tahoe Airport.
Fees appear to be going up in June for pilots as well as limousine and taxi cab drivers, with the South Lake Tahoe City Council’s unanimous request on Tuesday to raise revenue at the embattled facility.
The Federal Aviation Administration has imposed higher fees amounting to $48,485 for 2003-04 to run the tower and disallowed reduced hours so the city can save money. The city has no additional funds to pick up the deficit in its challenging budgetary times. It’s fees are paid up until June 30.
In a last-ditch effort to have users offset the costs, the council instructed Airport Manager Mike Dikun to return to its May 28 meeting with a program to raise landing fees and charge limousines and taxis that drive down the ramp and up to the planes. Public safety aircraft would be exempt from the rate hikes. Mayor Tom Davis asked that the fee structure go into effect June 1.
The charges are aimed at those seeking a free ride at the airport, which struggles financially with no commercial air service yet tries to maintain a tower for safety reasons. The Truckee and Minden airports, however, do not have a manned tower.
Pilots and airport administration contend the flight patterns and rapidly changing weather conditions necessitate a manned tower.
“If the airport were to lose the tower, we could fly, we’d just start losing our safety factors. I’d like to live another shift,” said Bryan Pond, a flight nurse with Calstar. The California Shock Trauma Air Rescue responds to 320 flight operations a year.
“I think it’s distasteful how these taxis and limos are not paying access to go through the gate to the aircraft,” said Mindy Johnke of Superior Aviation, the fueling service and concierge. “People who fly are not the only ones who benefit.”
Johnke said about a handful a day drive on the airport lot for its private jets.
The council also asked Dikun to schedule a special meeting with the Lake Tahoe Airport Commission to give members a say on the rates. When the city adopted its budget six months ago, landing fees and fueling charges went up.
In addition, the panel wants commission Chairman Mike Bradford, who runs Lakeside Inn & Casino, to approach Douglas and El Dorado counties with a request for revenue assistance. It’s estimated at least 20 percent of the city-run airport’s users come from Nevada.
“We seem to be bearing the burden,” Councilwoman Kathay Lovell said.
But given the counties’ budget woes, Davis said he won’t rest his hope in those jurisdictions coughing up some money. The city subsidizes the airport with about $600,000 annually.
The city is also considering other revenue sources at the airport, including using the site for boat storage for the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association. But even with a deal worked out, revenue isn’t expected to come in until late summer.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at email@example.com