Landing fees get off the ground
Saratoga airport collects $900 in landing fees during a not particularly busy week
October 17, 2018
The Saratoga Airport Board, minus chairman Lance Grubb, heard updates from airport manager Bob Maddox on newly implemented landing fees as well as a report on the asbestos in the defunct terminal tower at Shively Airfield during their regularly scheduled meeting at 1 p.m. on Oct. 10 at the Saratoga Town Hall. There was also a brief update on the perennial issue of hangar leases. In Grubb’s absence, vice-chair Arlen Hughes ran the meeting.
After making the decision to begin charging fees similar to the Ralph Wenz Airport in Pinedale and working with the Saratoga Jet Center on the logistics, the charging of both landing fees and overnight fees began on the first of the month.
“As of yesterday, we’ve collected $900 in landing fees and $160 in overnight fees for the first nine days of the month,” Maddox told the board.
The amount of money raised through landing fees in just the first nine days of October impressed the members of the board, especially as the busy season for Saratoga Jet Center has passed with the end of summer. Currently, the fixed based operator is running all credit cards through their own system and communicating with Suzie Cox, Saratoga town clerk.
“I think, at least for a while, let’s keep doing what we’re doing right now,” said Maddox.
As discussion around landing fees continued, Maddox raised a concern in regards to regular users of the airport who did not own a hangar and flew in using NetJets. NetJet is a company that sells part ownership in private business jets and was founded in 1964, but many could compare it to more contemporary programs such as Uber or Lyft and their ridesharing programs.
According to Maddox, he was concerned with the NetJets being charged the landing fee, especially with some of the regular users of the airport who use the program being donors.
“If you look at the landing fee specification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), we have to be non-discriminatory,” said board member Ellie Dana, “so we were matching to what Pinedale did because it was pre-approved by the FAA. So, NetJet, making them the exception just because there’s a donor behind it, would break our covenant with the FAA. Basically, what we’re saying is ‘You’re a commercial provider and you will pay the landing fee if you’re a jet.’”
Further discussion led to the board voting to rescind the overnight fees as Saratoga Jet Center was already charging aircraft owners and users for temporary storage. Along with the discussion of landing fees, the board also discussed the fate of the terminal tower and the results from an asbestos report done on the building.
“They did find some asbestos in the tile and the ceiling texture and basically gave us a price to remove that. Once they remove that, you can demo the building as is,” Dan Ferrin, town zoning officer, informed the airport board.
The cost of removing asbestos would be approximately $17,000 with another approximately $18,000 for the demolition of the terminal. Hughes asked Dave Schultz, of Sage Civil Engineering, if there was grant money available for removal of the asbestos in the building.
“There is, but WYDOT (Wyoming Department of Transportation) has indicated that they would like to see us do a removal and then a demo project as opposed to just the asbestos removal,” said Schultz.
While there was some discussion over whether the town would actually want to keep and rehabilitate the old terminal, town council representative Richard Raymer shared his opinion on the matter.
“From a construction standpoint, I know, probably, it’s going to cost as much or more money to rehab as it would to replace. The nostalgia of the building is the only value,” stated Raymer.
More discussion regarded what kind of grant split the town should apply for. While a 60/40 split is the norm for most grants, Schultz suggested that the Town of Saratoga write a letter of hardship and apply for a 90/10 split. The difference in the share that the town would have to pay would be $3,500 versus $14,000.
The board voted to apply for a 90/10 grant along with a letter of hardship after Schultz informed them that the grant wouldn’t be rejected, but that WYDOT would inform the municipality what they could afford when it came to splitting the grant.
Finally, before entering a 13 minute executive session, the board informed hangar owners present that a recent letter submitted by Andy van Tol with suggestions was still being reviewed by the town attorney, Kylie Ebersole. The board also informed David Worthington that, since his most recent piece of correspondence submitted at the last meeting was through his attorney, they would no longer be engaging in public discussion in regards to hangar leases without their own representation present.
The next meeting of the Saratoga Airport Board will be at 1 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the Saratoga Town Hall.