Proposed Merrill Field plan calls for raising leases, fees
Merrill Field is self-sustaining, it does not receive state or local funds. However, the Airport Manager Ralph Gibbs has called for a four-cent increase on leases, raising tie-down fees for planes by 15% and bringing rates to 25 cents per square foot.
It costs more than a million dollars a year to operate Merrill Field. Gibbs said funds collected from user fees and lease agreements keep the city's airport running.
The 2015 land sale earned Merrill Field $4.5 million, but Gibbs said that money is gone and lease rates may not be the only thing rise, as the cost of fuel could increase by two cents a gallon.
Terry Cartee has flown for a good part of his life. He flies a work plane and keeps his personal one in a hangar at Merrill Field but that may change.
He says he's not happy it could soon cost him and other leaseholders more to keep their planes at the city-owned airport.
"When they feel like they are being charged unfairly, they'll leave, or they'll quit," Cartee said. "A lot of people are barely doing this on a shoestring," Cartee said. "They do it because they love to fly, but, when it gets to the point they can no longer afford, they'll quit."
Broken security gates are replaced at no charge to leaseholders, but that may also change.
"Those gates are $3,500," Gibbs said. "If you damage it, it's a $3,500 bill, that's not including the maintenance."
Gibbs does not believe the proposed changes will hurt Merrill Field.
"Our leases are full, we have no room," Gibbs said. "The only reason why we don't have more at the airport right now is because we're doing dynamic compaction to prepare for pavement so that we can fill more spaces."
Gibbs also wants to convert some property for where RVs could stay to help generate more money for the airport. The Anchorage Assembly is also considering taking out a $1.6 million loan to cover the costs of matching federal grants and financial losses for Merrill Field during 2018 and 2019.
The Assembly is expected to vote on the plan at its June 18 meeting.
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