City swaps tower fee for airport landing fee
A decision on the future of Lake Tahoe Airport stalled in midair Tuesday, as the City Council scratched its plan to implement a tower fee and proposed raising landing fees for larger planes instead.
The vote was 4-1, with Mayor Tom Davis dissenting because he wanted the matter resolved Tuesday. The council will reconvene June 1 and has asked airport manager Mike Dikun to return with the Lake Tahoe Airport Commission’s opinion on the increased landing fee proposal. The increase would apply to airplanes weighing more than 6,000 pounds. They make up 70 percent of the traffic at the airport and pay at least $2.70 per thousand pounds each time they land.
The funding dilemma surfaced when the Federal Aviation Administration doubled the rate to operate the tower in 2004-05 to $222,394. The city subsidizes the airport with $600,000 annually. But these are difficult fiscal times for the city, with temporary funding fixes running out in June and next year’s budget staring local government in the face.
Pilots of smaller planes such as Cessnas showed up at the council meeting with opposition to higher operational fees at Lake Tahoe. Their opinions were split on higher fees versus a higher power in the tower.
The council grappled with the dilemma of driving away business if it raises the fees. Moreover, the commission – with no quorum at its meeting – did not recommend charges for ground transportation use like limousines that drive out to the runway.
Local pilot and aviation consultant Colleen Turner asked for a commitment of leadership to operate the airport. She flies her 3,000-pound Cherokee 235 small plane from here to the Bay Area about once a month and relies on the airport tower for smooth landings.
“Why are we in the situation we are today with the airport fighting for its life?” she asked. “The Lake Tahoe Airport should be a strategic companion to the (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s) regional transportation plan.”
She cited the benefit of air traffic to reducing vehicle emissions, asking the city “to roll up its sleeves” on its commitment by bringing in El Dorado County in discussions on forming a Joint Powers Authority to operate it. Neighboring airports in Truckee and Minden airports have no tower.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at email@example.com