JC Airport Fees Worry Some
"The feeling is 'let the rich boys pay for their toys', but that's not the case, this is big business for Jefferson City," said Pete Abbott, airport tenant.
Abbott just bought a hangar at Memorial Airport, and has planes there for both business and pleasure. However, debates with the City Council about lease rates and usage fees have taken some of the pleasure out of flying.
"Right now we're on egg crates," said Abbott.
"We're not going after the airport in any way," said Steve Rasmussen, Jefferson City Administrator.
Rasmussen says it is normal for the council to look closely at expenses.
"There is some controversy, and we have people -- and council members -- on both sides of the issue," said Rasmussen.
Council members have talked about fuel charges, landing fees, and rent rates to generate more money than the $80,000 the airport brings in now. But some business owners say the airport cannot afford to lose business by pricing itself out of the competitive region market.
"If there was a fee in Jefferson City, I'd land in Columbia...One without the fee," said Brad Epple, airport tenant.
In other words, raising fees may cost the city more if pilots go somewhere else.
"You really can't count the money the airport brings in to Jefferson City," said Abbott. "People land, they go to eat, they shop at Meeks, Wal-Mart. The airport is vital."
"You're definitely going to deter business," said Epple.
Rasmussen says it is all about balance.
"We want to keep it attractive for people and pilots while covering more of our operating costs," he said.
The Jefferson City Council has not yet decided anything on the issue, and Rasmussen says the council may decide to keep things just the way they are. Abbott says he has never felt more welcomed at an airport than in Jefferson City, and he worries added fees will take away that welcome mat.