By CARL E. FEATHER - firstname.lastname@example.org
JEFFERSON — Hangar rental rates will be going up at the Northeast Ohio Regional Airport, commssioners Joe Moroski and Peggy Carlo learned Thursday.
The Ashtabula County Airport Authority met with commissioners in a special meeting Thursday to discuss the rate increase and request for additional funding. Authority President Dwight Bowden told the board that the authority approved the 3.75 percent rental rate increase for 2013 during a meeting Nov. 12. The board of commissioners is not required to approve the increase.
“We don’t, typically, tell other authorities how to spend (their appropriations),” Moroski said.
Nevertheless, President Carlo said she’s concerned that the increase will drive away aircraft owners from the county-owned airport and therefore decrease gasoline sales as well as rent revenue. The airport board reported Thursday that aviation fuel sales are already down about 20 percent for the first 10 months of 2012.
Even with the increase in rental rates, the hangars will lose money next year. Collectively, the hangars lose about $42 a day. With the 3.75 percent increase, they will lose about $34 a day, said Bowden.
The authority borrowed money to build three new hangar buildings several years ago, but has struggled to find tenants for them. The annual payment on the buildings is about $85,000. The county kicked in $95,000 toward the airport’s operations this year, but the authority is requesting another $35,000.
Joe Rich, a recreational aircraft owner, spoke against the rate increase during the meeting. He said the increase is “unreasonable” and comes on the heels of three prior years of increases in rental rates.
“We are not a pilot-friendly airport,” he said.
Airport authority members said they have fiduciary and safety responsibilities to keep the airport open. Rich said the authority needs to make the airport more friendly to general aviation users and provide tenants with a discount on fuel as a way to attract and retain renters.
The new rates go into effect Jan. 1.