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Dec 17, 2014 3:10 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town, Without FAA funding, Eyes Possible Revenue For Airport

Dec 19, 2014 9:43 AM

East Hampton Town’s Budget and Financial Advisory Committee, at the Town Board’s Tuesday work session, presented a series of ideas to increase revenue at the East Hampton Airport, including paid parking, leasing land for additional hangar space and upgrading fuel operations.

These possible revenue streams could further help fund the airport, especially since Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said this week that the town will not apply for any new FAA grants in the near future.

BFAC members Peter Wadsworth and Arthur Malman, who have said that the airport can sustain itself without FAA help, suggested that by transforming the parking lot at the airport to paid parking, the town could take in as much as $160,000 per year. Currently, the town does not charge for parking there, according to Mr. Malman. He said the airport is one of the only airports in the United States that doesn’t charge for parking.

There are 97 parking spots at the airport, plus nine short-term and four handicapped spaces, and 25 of those are typically taken up by Hertz rental cars. Additional spots could be freed up by adding 36 spots along a grassy strip that has been used for parking during the busy summer season. That area, they suggested, could be reserved for the rental cars.

Mr. Wadsworth suggested a number of different ways to implement a parking fee, including installing an automatic gate with upfront and monthly costs, using a multi-space pay station, like the one East Hampton Village uses in its long-term parking lot. They also suggested hiring paid attendants.

The most cost-effective method, the committee said, would be to use the pay station, which is called a LUKE II. The system accepts cash, credit and debit cards and is able to send parking expiration reminders to cellphones and extend time by phone. The station can also print out on demand a list of parking spaces, to check on which payments are current.

The cost of the equipment and training associated with the LUKE II is estimated to be between $12,332 to nearly $13,000, but it would still be less expensive than the automatic gate system, Mr. Wadsworth said.

The automatic gate system would require much more cost in terms of striping and repaving the parking lot, and would cost substantially more because of new fencing, parking equipment and communication equipment that would have to be installed.

The cost of operation between the two options is significant. The LUKE II would cost approximately $22,200, where the automatic gate could cost anywhere from $45,000 to $66,000 to operate.

Additional parking areas could be added along Industrial Road, with the potential to add 174 to 270 parking spaces. If, for example, 270 spots were added, on 3.1 acres of airport land, and each space costs $5 a day, or $150 a month, at least $246,375 in revenue could be gained.

While that is just an estimate, the Town Board said they’d be willing to move forward and continue discussion of the possibility.

Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who is the liaison to the airport, also said that on this Thursday night, December 18, there will be a resolution before the Town Board to initiate Phase III of the town’s airport noise analysis, which will cost $79,000—a cost that has been budgeted for and will come out of both the 2014 and 2015 airport fund. The fund operates on airport revenues and not on collected property taxes. Harris, Miller, Miller & Hanson, which conducted Phase II, will complete Phase III.

The third phase will summarize the research about the extent to which helicopter noise differs to fixed-wing aircraft and why it is more disturbing. This is expected to help the town come up with the most appropriate noise abatement.

Secondly, HMMH will look at the possibility of how a graduated curfew could work to limit the most disturbing aircraft—namely, helicopters—but will also evaluate an all-out ban on helicopters, a peak season weekend ban, and other alternatives. HMMH will also coordinate with the helicopter community to look at voluntary approaches that could further abate the noise issue.

All will be made possible once the town's grant assurances from the FAA expire after December 31. Right now, the airport is grant-obligated, meaning since it accepted funding from the FAA, it had to adhere by certain FAA regulations through 2014. But once those grant assurances expire after December 31, the Town Board will be able to impose restrictions on traffic to mitigate noise at the airport.

On Tuesday, Mr. Cantwell said the Town Board had no immediate plans to take FAA funding based on the BFAC’s report that the town could, in fact, finance $5.1 million in capital projects without help from the FAA. He said the Town Board would have to apply for the grant, but they have no application into the FAA.

Jemille Charlton, the airport manager, also asked the Town Board on Tuesday to also consider the purchase of a new automated airport weather station to replace current equipment that is no longer certified by the FAA.

The new system, called AWOS III, generates much more data, according to Mr. Charlton, than the existing AWOS system, like wind speed and wind gust, wind direction and variation, temperature, dew point, sky condition and cloud ceiling height, and precipitation accumulation. Mr. Charlton said that the data can be collected from as far away as 25 nautical miles.

The AWOS III system would cost approximately $240,000.

Michael Baker International, a consultant the town hired to assist with the airport’s capital plan, has backed the purchase, saying it would “greatly enhance the safety of the airport operations in the area.”

New Truck Legislation Drafted

Also on Tuesday, Councilman Fred Overton and Assistant Town Attorney John Jilnicki presented their new draft of the truck legislation that is meant to curb congestion in neighborhoods and the number of commercial vehicles parked in driveways throughout town.

The Town Board held a series of meetings this past summer to discuss its first proposed truck law, which would have allowed only two commercially licensed light trucks per residential property and would have completely banned box trucks and dump trucks. The law met with strong opposition from construction workers and contractors who make their living by operating such trucks and have been using the vehicles as their means of transportation to and from work.

The new draft is a bit more forgiving. It still defines a “light truck” as an unmodified pickup truck, regardless of gross vehicle weight, or any commercial vehicle that weighs 12,000 pounds or less. The law would allow any number of pickup trucks to be parked on a property, as long as they do not have any advertising or lettering on the vehicle, and it would allow one commercially registered car or light truck to be parked on the property.

The commercially registered vehicle must belong to a home improvement contractor that lives at the home full-time. The vehicle must also have a valid East Hampton Town contractor sticker and be at least 75-percent screened from view of neighbors or public streets.

The law would grandfather in those who already owned and parked their commercial vehicles at their homes and would be in effect for those who move into town or get a new commercial vehicle. Commercial vehicles, however, can be replaced as long as the owner owns his or her own property, and the vehicle cannot be larger than the one they replace.

Following some minor tweaks, the Town Board is planning to bring up the draft law for discussion again on January 6.

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