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Anchorage Assembly approves fee increases at city-owned Merrill Field airport

Airplanes parked at the gravel / ski strip at Merrill Field Airport on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday approved sweeping fee increases for the city-owned Merrill Field airport in an effort to balance the budget, and over the protest of some businesses and pilots.

The increases impact fees for aviation fuel, parking and tie-down space and take effect immediately.

Merrill Field is Alaska’s second-busiest airfield behind Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

City officials say the increases are needed to keep the airport afloat. For about four years, the airport spent more than it made to finish federally-subsidized upgrade projects, and its savings account dried up, officials say. But some businesses and pilots have railed against the increases, saying the city should do more to support the airport instead of the costs falling to leaseholders.

Ultimately, the Assembly unanimously approved the fee increases Tuesday evening. The increases include raising daily fees for vehicle parking from $5 to $6, and raising monthly fees for aircraft parking by about 15 percent, to $70 or $80 depending on the type of parking space.

Merrill Field is also expected to implement fees for some services it previously provided for free. Changes to lease rates will be implemented in the fall budget process and take effect in January 2020, according to Anchorage city manager Bill Falsey.

Also Tuesday, the Assembly unanimously approved the borrowing of up to nearly $1.7 million to pay for capital improvements at Merrill Field.

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