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FEE BATTLE: Airport Holds Off On Decision

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Plans to enact a fee for commercial vehicles that pick up and drop off passengers at the Des Moines International Airport are on hold for now, following opposition from local businesses.

It was a packed house as local business owners spoke out against proposed fees for commercial vehicles at the airport.

The airport says the fees would help offset the cost of road maintenance and security because tax dollars cannot be used for such expenses.

"We do receive grants but it's only for capital improvement projects,” says Kevin Foley. “This airport does not receive property tax support nor does the authority have taxing authority."

Business owners say they understand the need for the fees but they say the structure is unfair.

"Despite the fact that the traffic is nearly half non-commercial, they will not be charged.  Airport shuttles will not be charged.  Commercial vehicles delivering to the airport will not be charged.  Only hotel shuttles who are, ironically, the only ones bringing you passengers will be charged," Airport Holiday Inn’s Lowell Scott says.

airport shuttle prices feeOutside parking lots could see the biggest hit.  They'll pay $2.50-per trip even though they use the same kind of busses as the hotel's use yet hotels, under the proposal, will only pay a $1 a trip.  Lot owners say the cost could drive them out of business.

But Don Smithey, executive director of Des Moines International Airport says companies should pay, "They actually have 100-percent of their business is on the airport.  So basically they come on the airport, use it to make revenue and they don't pay anything for it.  They're the exception and that's pretty unfair to everybody else that's paying."

The airport authority plans to consider the concerns voiced Tuesday before making a decision but insists, the only way the airport can stay in business is by charging fees like these.

Opponents of the fee say they'll have to pass that cost on to their customers.

The airport authority has not set a timetable for when it will vote on the proposal.