Thursday, March 02, 2017

High flying rent whirls pilot's prop

Rising rent for Marion Municipal Airport hangars has one tenant asking for relief.

Don Hodson, a longtime hangar tenant, called a 35 percent rent increase imposed by city council in January “disconcerting.”

“In general I believe an increase of that magnitude is not acceptable and I would like to explain why I think it is much too high for Marion Municipal Airport,” Hodson wrote in a letter to the council. “I was told that the increase was done after competitive analysis and was deemed acceptable. I am not sure what was analyzed but it must have not been local or rural.”

Hodson isn’t the first to say the rent increase was too high. Some tenants are voicing their opinion by storing their planes elsewhere.

“We’ve had some people leave who didn’t think they should pay that much,” airport board member Ty Zeiner said.

Zeiner predicted the trend of going elsewhere will continue.

“We were paying $82 and now it’s $125,” Zeiner said.

Hodson wrote that he did his own research on hangar rent and “found rather glaring discrepancies.”

He said rent at McPherson airport ranges from $65 to $128 per month, depending on the style of hangars and the airport has onsite staff. Rent at Hillsboro’s airport ranges from $55 to $70 per month, he said.

Hodson also complained that grass at the airport wasn’t mowed often enough last spring, allowing the grass to be struck by propellers.

“In all fairness to many of your long-term tenants, please reconsider your prices,” Hodson wrote.

Hodson also reminded the city he and his partner arranged and paid for concrete in front of their hangar with the understanding that the rent on their space would never increase.

“I do feel like I am paying part of my rent for the concrete that I installed those many years ago,” Hodson wrote.

City council took up the issue at Monday’s meeting.

City administrator Roger Holter emphasized that the rate increases to $80 for spots in older hangars and $125 for newer ones were consistent with city policy to target fees to cover increased costs.

“The rationale is to increase user fees for those who directly benefit,” he said.

Holter reported that there was a waiting list for space in the newer hangars.

Council member Jerry Kline said he’d spoken with a pilot who wasn’t as concerned about hangar rates as he was getting the grass mowed more frequently.

Council member Melissa Mermis asked Holter how the airport board felt about the increase, and he replied that they understood the rationale for the increase.

As Hodson wasn’t present for the meeting, council chose to defer additional discussion to a later date.


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