County leaders decided earlier this week that in order to maintain services at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport, airport users will have to pay higher fees.
But those airport users, many of whom were at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, say they’ll be paying higher fees for services they don’t even need.
The county currently charges fees for a variety of services, including fuel, hangers and tie-downs. The last time the fees at the airport were raised was in 2005.
Interim Public Works Director Doug Wilson said that, even with the board-approved rate increase, fees at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport are well below standard fees charged at other airports of similar size throughout the state.
The county’s goal is to generate enough money at the airport to not only cover costs of services, but be able to keep up on mandatory maintenance and provide a “safe” airport for local and visiting pilots.
Ultimately, the board agreed to raise hangar fees at the airport from $130 to $150 a month with a 3 percent increase each year.
The board also supported an increase in tie-down fees for pilots who do not have a hangar at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport. Rather than a flat rate of $6 per night, tie-down fees will be determined by the type of aircraft. For a single-engine plane, the fee will be increased from $6 to $10. Pilots who plan to tie down their aircraft for a week or more, or who purchase fuel at the airport, will receive discounts.
Ramp fees, which apply to commercial pilots but not general aviation pilots, are also charged. The board agreed to establish separate fee categories for different types of aircraft. For example, the price for twin-engine turbine aircraft will be raised from $30 per landing to $45 per landing. Also, jet aircraft will be charged $150 per landing.
The board decided not to raise the fee for passenger aircraft with 30 or more on board. Those planes will continue to be charged the standard $200 per landing.
Bishop resident Rex Allen told the board that he, as a local pilot and someone who uses the airport, does not support the increased hangar fees. “I don’t want most services, and don’t need most of the facilities. What we use is a 40-foot runway. We don’t need three runways. We are being asked to pay for maintenance for facilities we don’t use.”
Allen went on to explain that the 40-foot runway used by private pilots is adequate, while the two other runways are utilized for larger, military and postal service aircraft.
“We think the taxpayers should pick up the tab,” Allen said.
Another local pilot, Brad Wyatt, said that the county does little to no maintenance on the hangars they are planning to raise the rent on.
“Raising hangar fees will do very little” towards generating money for the major maintenance needs at the airport, Wyatt said.