New airport parking rates of $1 per day on the Revilla-side lot passed the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly in a final vote Monday, and will go into effect at the start of the year.
Several people spoke during a public hearing on the matter, all in opposition to the resolution. Joe Menardi, who works at the airport for the federal Transportation Security Administration, didn’t oppose paying for parking. But he did ask that the borough give special consideration to those who park in that lot every day in order to go to work.
“Such consideration might include specified parking for frequent users to ensure they have a space available to them when they arrive at work; convenient monthly purchase options, to allow frequent users the opportunity to make one purchase per month instead of daily transactions; and the third one: volume discounts to provide a price break for large-quantity purchases,” he said.
The resolution approved on Monday does allow monthly pass purchases, but only for airport tenants. TSA is not a tenant, so would not be eligible for that option.
Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst and Airport Manager Mike Carney both stressed that the parking fees are an important step toward reducing the deficit at which the airport operates. It has gone down over the past few years, and now is at about $225,000. With the new fees, the borough estimates that the annual deficit will drop to about $165,000.
Several other airport employees asked for designated parking. They expressed concern that they would have to park far from the ferry terminal, and might miss the ferry, and be late for work.
Following public comment, Carney argued that if the borough saved premium parking spaces for airport employees, travelers would be the ones coming before the Assembly to complain.
“My main customer and my main objective is the traveling public,” he said. “That’s what the airport does. If it wasn’t for the traveling public, you wouldn’t have Alaska Airlines. You wouldn’t have TSA. That’s what it all boils down to.”
Carney noted that Juneau charges more for airport parking, doesn’t provide a discount for airport employees, and has designated employee parking, but in spots far from the main doors.
He said parking fees are a common method for airports to boost revenue.
“The average operating budget, what airports go by standard, is anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of their operating revenue off of parking,” Carney said. “We generate maybe .00025 percent of our operating revenue off of parking. It’s something that’s looked at as the low-hanging fruit.”
During Assembly consideration, Assembly Member Glen Thompson suggested changing the rate to $8 per day, but that motion died because nobody seconded it. He then suggested $3 per day, which was seconded by Agnes Moran.
The amendment failed one-to-six (1-6) with Moran casting the only yes vote. She explained that $3 per day would eliminate the operating deficit.
Thompson later said he only suggested the increased rate to see how dedicated the Assembly was to reducing the deficit.
“If you truly want to balance the budget, you need another $2 a day,” he said. “You don’t have that strength of conviction, which means you’re really not sure this is such a good idea at all. Until you’re sure of that, I think you should not raise the fees and the rates on the folks in the community and this should be postponed indefinitely.”
Another suggested amendment that would have offered a yearly airport parking pass at a reduced rate also failed. The main motion passed 5-2 with Thompson and Assembly Member Todd Phillips voting no.