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Fees likely to fly with officials

Andy Ouriel • Sep 7, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Erie County commissioners urged those overseeing activity at the Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport to consider charging a $10 landing fee for all general pilots.

Recreational fliers landing at the public airport in Port Clinton currently do not pay a single penny to land, a situation that baffles local officials.

"If you have a boat, almost anywhere around here you would have to pay to dock it at a marina,” Erie County commissioner Pat Shenigo said. “Why not a plane? For $10, that is not a lot of money to come down.”

Certain people would be exempt from the proposed fee, including those:

• Paying a hangar fee at the airport.

• Purchasing a certain amount of fuel at the airport.

• Flying on commercial flights. Executives, typically visiting a company located in northern Ohio, already pay a separate landing fee.

“This is something that has been discussed and seems pretty reasonable to me,” airport director Stan Gebhardt said.

The extra $10, meanwhile, could actually pay off in major dividends for airport operations.

Based on this year’s landing data, the airport could generate an extra $40,000 a year, representing more than 10 percent of the operation’s current annual income.

The regional airport eked out a small profit after income barely eclipsed the $382,000 in expenses in 2012. The airport receives funds from the federal government, in addition to local contributions from taxpayers in Erie and Ottawa counties.

Most public airports in Ohio lose tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, for any number of reasons.

But the Port Clinton airport actually stands to make some money, since it’s considered an attraction. Since 2011, a complete renaissance has occurred at the hub located off Ohio 2, including offering flight instructions and travel packages for flight trips to nearby islands.

Newer attractions recently landing on the premises also boost interest, such as the World War II-themed Liberty Aviation Museum and Tin Goose Diner.

Commissioners in Erie and Ottawa counties, along with an independent board overseeing airport activity, plan to continue debating the pros and cons of a landing fee. A deadline for the decision has not been set.

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