Small Town News


Airport attracts visitors, business

The Adams County Record of Council, Idaho

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We recently met Ken Sievert at the airport to look over the facilities. Ken is one of three people on the Council Airport Commission. Dick Thompson chairs the commission, and Tom Gaston is the other member.

Pilots like Ken appreciate the freedom of a small town airport, without the constant pressure of traffic or of authorities looking over their shoulder for every possible infraction, and there is every reason to continue that freedom. But the unkempt appearance and signs of neglect raise safety concerns and diminish welcome and encouragement for visitors to spend time and money here. Rather than enhancing Council's business and recreational resources, the airport's ghost-town appearance gives an aura of defeat.

Sievert laments the fact that there is no phone at the airport anymore. Pilots sometimes need to contact someone, maybe for a local service, and emergency or maybe they just need information. During a recent winter and near freezing temperatures, a pilot was stranded at the airport with no way to contact anyone. He ended up having to spend an uncomfortable night on the restroom floor.

Because of how common cell phones have become, pay phones have been removed from many places. (The phone at the airport was not a payphone, but it went the way of many of them.) Many pilots have cell phones, but they have carriers that don't serve Council, so they get no signal.

As Ken told this story, he opened the empty box on the side of a hangar to show me where the phone used to be. A squadron of angry hornets erupted from underieath it, and a painful sting accentuated the sad state of affairs. Fuel

One of the main attractions for pilots at this airport has been the low price of fuel. Pilots will fly out of their way to save $20 or $30, so the Council airport attracted many pilots who were passing through. But too often they find the fuel tank empty. Almost as a tradition, the tank runs dry every year just after the 4th of July. Pilots don't know it's empty, so they tie down their airplane, get the ladder out of the shelter, get the hose up the ladder to the fuel tank opening, go to the credit card reader and go through the frustration of nothing happening. This makes them angry and some never come back.

The fuel tank ran empty at its traditional time this year and was recently replenished, but only half filled. And it is currently priced higher than some of its competition. At Emmett the price is $5.40 a gallon. It is $5.79 here. At the McCall airport, however, fuel is well over $6 a gallon.

In recent years fuel sales at the airport have been just about the only bright spot in the airport's financial picture. Here are fuel income above costs for these fiscal years: 2008 = $3,154 2099 = $3,190 2010 = $546 2011 = $9,296. ("The city's fiscal year runs from October through September.)

The airport hangars are privately owned, but the owners lease the land on which the hangars sit, and the county collects property taxes on them. The city collects $1,929.10 every year in hangar leases. Hangar owners also pay property taxes to the county.

In a strictly financial sense, the airport has been a losing proposition for Council. Here are the profit/loss figures for the past few fiscal years: 2008 = lost $4,366 - 2009 = lost $3,115 - 2010 = lost $1,959 2011 = profit of $6,027 - 2012 (to current month) = lost $10,500. (The above fuel cost was most of this.) There's more to the picture Judging the benefit of the airport purely on financial profit or loss leaves out a significant chunk of the picture. Mayor Bruce Gardner points out that having that facility is important to the city and our general community. He said, "It's another form of access from the outside into our local economy." It is used by the Forest Service for fighting fires and other jobs, and emergency medical flights use it, both for fixed wing aircraft and helicopter flights. Gardner also noted that because the FAA has put a lot of money into the airport, the city has an obligation to maintain it and more.

FAA money does not come without strings attached. The way the airport's finances are used and recorded are regulated, and the records are subject to audit at any time. The airport must be available for use by government aircraft. A 14-page Assurances document details hangar agreements, fees and rental structures, use of airport revenue, noise issues, access and more.

Copyright 2012 The Adams County Record, Council, Idaho. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: August 15, 2012

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