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Advisory group mulls regular aircraft parking fee increases

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The Roswell Air Center is considering implementing a procedure for regular increases in its aircraft parking or storage fees.

The issue was one of several discussed at a Thursday meeting of the City of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission, although no action was taken by the group on any item discussed.

Part of the reason no decisions were made was due to the absence of Air Center Director Scott Stark and Deputy Director Steve Christopher. They were participating in “exit interviews” with the Transportation Security Administration, which Stark said later involved a confidential report that he cannot discuss.

The Air Center had been earning about $155,000 a month on airplanes parked during the pandemic, when as many 500 planes had been stored, according to a 2020 city annual report. There are about 450 planes parked now.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh, who chairs the commission, said that the Air Center went 10 years without fee increases. The commission voted 5-0 in November 2020 to approve new fees. Stark said the Roswell City Council also approved them and that they went into effect Jan. 1.

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“The question is how often do we want to review those,” said Kintigh. “I think 10 years was way too long. Do we need to do it every two years or three years?”

Most of the other four commission members said that all Air Center fees should be reviewed regularly, maybe as often as once a year.

City Councilor Jason Perry, although not a member of the commission, suggested that the city consider at least an annual increase equal to the Consumer Price Index for parking fees.

According to Kintigh and an Air Center tenant, the Air Center has varied parking fees, depending on the aircraft’s wing size, with the largest planes paying $14 a day.

The group also discussed several other items during the meeting.

• The Air Center has received an additional $1.6 million in pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March. Stark said that no decisions have been made about how to allocate that funding. The Air Center has received several other relief grants since March 2020.

• Ascent Aviation Services, based in Arizona, has hired a firm to prepare a site plan regarding the planned location for its fabric hangar on the Air Center property. That report is supposed to be presented to the commission during its next meeting, now scheduled for Aug. 19. The company has said it expects to hire more than 100 aircraft maintenance and support staff when it starts its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations here, now projected to be around April 2022. The company is also doing environmental and geological technical studies.

• The Air Center is discussing doing evaluations on all of its buildings inside the secure fenced area as well as outside to determine whether buildings need repairs or need to be demolished.

• The group also plans to discuss a more in-depth manner in coming meetings regarding procedures for leases of $60,000 or less and lease transfers, as well as how capital and infrastructure projects are handled.

Some people want the city manager to have the ability, if he so chooses, to handle smaller leases on his own without requiring the review of the governing body. Some also think the city manager should be able to approve the transfer of leases when a business is sold to another entity.

The discussion about building and infrastructure projects centered on whether the Roswell City Council Infrastructure Committee should review all such projects before they go to the entire governing body. One view is that the Air Center, as a self-sustaining enterprise operation of the city with Federal Aviation Administration oversight, does not need to have such items go through that particular committee, especially since such matters are reviewed by the commission. Another view is that the Infrastructure Committee typically reviews all building projects, including for other enterprise funds, such as the city’s water operations.

• The group continues to consider how the Air Center should proceed with its strategic plan and master plan updates, with the commission asking that Air Center staff have a timeline and some recommendations on how to proceed ready for the next meeting.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.