Rates would increase to support operations
After more than a year of negotiating a new lease agreement for airplane hangars at the Twisp Municipal Airport, the Twisp Town Council is proposing a significant increase in rates paid by pilots who keep planes at the airport.
The increased rates would boost the contribution by pilots to the annual costs of operating the airport, estimated to be about $21,000 in 2019. The current yearly lease rate of $227.63 per hangar produces about 33 percent of the total cost of airport operations.
The Twisp Council last week voted to increase in the hangar lease rate to $460 per year, which would provide about 70 percent of the airport operations costs, with the town paying the remainder.
The town has been negotiating terms of the new hangar lease agreement with the Twisp Airport Advisory Board (TAAB), comprised of pilots who use the airport. The TAAB had recommended a lower amount of $375 per year, which would generate about 60 percent of the airport operating costs. The TAAB scheduled a meeting this week to consider the Town Council’s recommendation.
In a letter to the council, the advisory board noted that the new lease agreement includes new requirements for insurance for the hangars, which the advisory board estimated would cost an average of more than $600 per year per tenant. The group also said a study of similar regional airports shows the current lease rate is essentially in the middle of other airports’ rates, but the increased lease rate proposed by the town “would put Twisp at the top of the cost comparison.”
The airport has 32 hangars, with potential for construction of about a dozen more, according to town officials. Pilots urged the town to adopt a lease agreement that would encourage new hangar construction and, consequently, increase revenue for the town.
The TAAB also urged town officials to recognize benefits that the airport provides to the community, in addition to the use of hangars by pilots. A public facility, the airport is used by pilots who fly here to visit Twisp and the Methow Valley. The airport is used by emergency services for medical evacuations by air to hospitals outside the valley, and it hosts community events including a fly-in and car show and an annual gathering of soaring clubs, the advisory board said.
Pilots are also expected to contribute money this year toward a match, estimated at about $40,000, for a grant to reconstruct a taxiway at the airport, the TAAB said.
The task of updating the hangar lease was led by council member Hans Smith, who has worked on the issue for more than a year.
“We have been discussing a major restructuring of the lease through the TAAB since June 2017,” Smith said. “We have had numerous town council/mayor discussions about the lease at various moments since I first started on council in 2010, however the real cooperative work to update the lease started in 2017.”
In addition to the increase in annual lease rates, other terms of the lease have been altered “partly due to internal town concerns and partly due to pilot requests over the years,” Smith said. The proposed lease agreement has added requirements for liability insurance that covers the town; changes the term to 30 years, instead of a 10-year lease with a 10-year renewal option; permits some non-aviation uses for hangars such as storing vehicles; allows subletting of hangars and transfer of leases; and reduces the required size of hangars.