Hangar fees at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport are going up, but not yet.
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to increase fuel and ramp fees at Bishop’s airport, the only county-operated facility that sells aviation fuel. But when it came time to discuss raising fees for hangar rentals and tie-downs, the board members were surprised to learn the increase would apply to all county operated airports.
Fourth District Supervisor Marty Fortney, whose district includes Independence, said he was under the impression that the fee increases the board discussed earlier this year applied only to the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop, but the ordinance brought before the board this week proposed raising hangar fees from $130 to $150 a month at all county airports.
Fortney pointed out that more services are available in Bishop than in Independence, and asked that the county hold off on making any decision on the hangar fee increases until the Southern Inyo Airport Advisory Commission and residents who utilize the Independence and Tecopa airports have an opportunity to review and discuss the proposal.
Third District Supervisor Rick Pucci suggested approving the rate increase for the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport Tuesday, and holding off on increases in Southern Inyo until the board has an opportunity to meet with the affected parties.
County Counsel Randy Keller said the board could not approve the fee hikes in Bishop only because legal notices that were published informing residents of the proposed action included all county-operated airports.
The Lone Pine airport is not operated by the county and thus is not affected by the proposed actions.
The board voted unanimously to table the public hearing on the fees until 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13.
Interim Public Works Director Doug Wilson said that he could call a special meeting of the Southern Inyo Airport Advisory Commission to discuss the proposed increases before Sept. 13.
Independence resident Michael Barnes was one of two residents to participate in the Public Hearing. “I’m in favor of one half of this ordinance,” Barnes said, adding that comparing the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport to the Independence Airport “is like comparing apples to oranges.”
Barnes said Independence has a much smaller airport with fewer amenities and no full-time scheduled maintenance. He also said there is a problem with the hangar doors in Independence that has not been addressed due to engineering issues and a full schedule for the Inyo County Public Works Department that has prevented staff from finding a fix.
“If you’re going to raise the rent, can we put the doors up?” Barnes asked. “I’m willing to pay more if the doors can be fixed.”
Fortney said he agreed, and would like to see the hangar doors fixed regardless of what the ultimate decision on the hangar fees is.
Dave Patterson, a member of the Northern Inyo Airport Advisory Committee, said he supported the proposed fee increases.
“The fees haven’t changed in over six years,” Patterson said. “There are 60 hangars and there is a 60-person waiting list for people who want to get in. There is a cost for maintenance and eventually you’ll have to look at replacing the hangars.”
Patterson said the county would see a reasonable return if it increased hangar rent.
Despite tabling the discussion regarding hangar fees, the board was able to approve another ordinance that establishes ramp fees for various types of aircraft and gives pilots a discount on aviation fuel if they purchase a certain amount.
There is also a component in the ordinance that allows pilots to purchase a month-pass for ramp fees, rather than paying per use. Wilson said the monthly pass is eight times the one-use fee.
What that cost will be depends on the type of plane, as larger and commercial and jet aircraft are charged more for ramp fees than single-engine recreation planes.
Eastern Sierra Regional Airport Lead Technician Ken Babione said he does not expect to see any negative impacts from the fee increases, as the county’s rates are still much lower than many airports in the state.