The daily vehicle parking fee at the Kenai Municipal Airport will increase from $4 to $5 as of January 1, but the people who are in charge of the decision say the fee change should actually save most users money.
The current daily parking fee is $4, but that fee is charged on a calendar day basis. The new $5 fee will charge users on a 24-hour basis.
For example, if you park your car in the airport lot on a Saturday evening at 6 p.m. and return to the car at 4 p.m. on Sunday, under the current system, you would be charged $8 because you spent two calendar days -- Saturday and Sunday -- in the lot. The proposed system, however, would charge $5 because you utilized the facility for less than 24 hours.
"The key to this change is the change to 24 hours instead of the calendar day," Barry Eldridge, the council's Kenai Airport commission liaison, said during a discussion of the fee increase at Tuesday night's Kenai City Council meeting. "You will save on one or two nights." Eldridge said the airport commission unanimously agreed to the change.
The city council was not in unanimous agreement Tuesday.
"I'm not sure why we need to raise the rate," Councilman Mike Boyle said, citing the 100 percent fee increase a few years ago. "We're raising it 300 percent in three years."
Kenai Mayor Pat Porter expressed her support of the $5 fee via conference call during Tuesday night's meeting.
"I recently went to Anchorage and spent $15 for parking and received no better services," Porter said. "I don't think $5 is unreasonable at all. I have no objections."
City Manager Rick Koch said the change can only be considered an increase if the user parks for less than 24 hours.
"If somebody puts the vehicle in lot and removes it the same day, it would result in a dollar increase," Koch said on Wednesday. Otherwise, Koch said, it results in savings.
Airport Manager Mary Bondurant recommended the city council adopt the $5, 24-hour-based fee because the current system confuses many users, especially since the airport installed automated payment machines.
"Customers are very confused as to the definition of calendar day, basically thinking it was 24 hours," Bondurant wrote Koch. "This confusion has led to unhappy customers receiving parking violations after leaving their vehicle 'overnight' in the lot, thinking they had 24 hours."
Bondurant's other concern was the LUKE Pay Station's inability to give change.
"The LUKE does not give change. The airport is collecting dollars from customers who do not have the correct currency," she said in her memo to Koch.
Koch said the change issue was a small factor in his decision to accept Bondurant's proposal.
"Most customers don't pay with cash," Koch said. "But since the machine doesn't make change, we have received a number of comments from the people who pay with cash."
At Tuesday's meeting, Bondurant said the LUKE machine prints a receipt with the date and time the customer entered the lot.
"I have access to a Web interface, so I know who is valid and who is not," Bondurant said.
Reporter Andrew Waite can be reached at email@example.com.
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