Port increases airport hangar, marina slip rates

The 10% increase will take effect in 2022; comes after no increase in 2020

When John Spencer first saw the Port of Camas-Washougal’s latest proposed rate increase for Grove Field Airport and Parker’s Landing Marina users, he thought that he might have to reach for some antacids.

“When I first looked at this (proposal),” Spencer said during the commissioners’ June 2 virtual meeting, “I had some serious heartburn.”

Nevertheless, Spencer and fellow commissioners Larry Keister and Cassi Marshall approved the Port’s request to raise its airport and marina lease rates by 10 percent during their virtual meeting on Wednesday, June 16.

Currently, airport hangars range from $220 to $400 per month, and marina slips range from $93.50 to $307.75 per month. Both facilities are 100 percent occupied.

Chief operating officer Kim Noah said during the June 2 meeting that the Port’s current rates compare favorably to other airports and marinas in Southwest Washington and the Portland metropolitan area.

Spencer responded that comparing Grove Field to other airports in the area might not make sense due to the fact that the Camas airfield, for all intents and purposes, “doesn’t have a runway for four months of the year because it doesn’t have instruments for approach.” He also asked his fellow commissioners to consider that the Port is “kind of in a monopolistic situation (because) with the marina and the airport, there aren’t a lot of (regional) options.”

But in the end he concluded that the proposed rate increases, which will take effect in 2022, make sense.

“I want to make sure we’re keeping these issues in mind,” he said. “On the other hand, we did not have a rate increase last year, so when we look at a 10-percent increase this year, really that’s two 5-percent increases. That makes it much less dramatic. In the end, yes, this makes a lot of sense to me, but the way I get there is different from the way the staff got there.”

The Port also proposed that its monthly airport electric rates increase from $17 to $22; airport relocation fees increase from $50 to $75; monthly marina non-metered electric rates increase from $19 or $21 to $25; marina relocation fee increase from $50 to $75; and marina termination fee increase from $50 to $100.

“I’m going to hear (about this) big-time from the pilot community,” Spencer said. “Part of my answer to them is, ‘Hey, you guys have noticed an increased focus on the airport with more stuff going on there. That stuff costs money.’ They need to recognize that it goes both ways. We can’t do this stuff for free.”

Marshall was also surprised when she first saw the proposal.

“When I first saw this, I did a little bit of a ‘yikes,'” she said on June 2. “But I thought it was the perfect move on the Port’s part. I’m really glad we decided not to do a price increase in the COVID year, so this seems like a little bit of a catch-up to me.”

Keister also approved of the increases.

“I look at, ‘Does it follow the Port’s operating rates and budgeting policies? Are we making sure we’re not gifting public funds?'” he said on June 2. “The rate increase is in line with what it costs us to operate the airport (and marina). I agree that 10 percent is a very reasonable price increase at this time.”

Marina tenant Bernie Bacon said during the June 16 meeting that the rate increases might cause some boat owners to abandon their vessels for good.

“For a lot of boaters — contrary to what we’ve heard some staff in the Port office actually say — (boats) are not a luxury,” she said. “There are not a lot of luxury boats at the marina. For a lot of these people, this is their only getaway. They don’t have a vacation home. They don’t travel to vacation spots. This is their retreat, their solace. They’re feeling like they’re coming back to some normalcy, and I’m afraid that for some, a rate increase — and commissioner Spencer’s words about it being very large — may be the tipping point for them, and sadly they have to let their boat go.

“I would hope you would reject this rate increase, or at minimum consider lowering it from 10 percent, because that is very large, and let us boaters experience some normalcy on the river and in our families’ lives.”