Quincy Aldermen Mike Farha, R-4, and Steve Duesterhaus, D-2, were at odds this week over an issue at Quincy Regional Airport.
Their disagreement came at the end of Monday’s City Council meeting when Farha made a motion to direct the city’s legal department to strike certain language from the city’s lease agreement with the fixed-based operator related to the collection of “fuel flowage fees.”
“The intent of this resolution would be to end the collection of fuel flowage fees,” Farha said, referring to the 7-cents-per-gallon tax paid by airport patrons who buy fuel from the fixed-based operator, Curtis Aviation.
This got Duesterhaus riled. He made the following comment in response to Farha’s motion:
“The Aeronautics Committee has repeatedly declined to take action as the alderman proposes. He proposes opening an excess of $30,000 hole in the budget without proposing any means to fill that hole. And we already subsidize that operation very heavily. Those proceeds are used to reduce that operating deficit to maintain the facilities that we own out there — the fueling facilities being one — and I would dare say this is not a burden on the people that use that fuel. So I really don’t know what this proposal stems from, but I would encourage members (aldermen) to make a choice right here and decline to direct the corporation counsel to draft this language.”
Farha responded to Duesterhaus’ comments by asserting that the fuel flowage fee is simply a tax and “is not our money.” He said it belongs to those who pay the tax, which is an investment into the airport.
“It’s their money,” he said. “I’m not asking to increase anything, to change anything, other than return the investment that those people have made in the airport.”
Farha said he would be “happy to propose a variety of cuts at any point in time” to make up for the lost revenue. But he feels more incentives are needed to spark additional activity at the airport.
“Ten years ago we had 12,000 enplanements on the commercial side. We had a lot of activity on the business side. Today at that airport we have less than 1,200 enplanements, and we don’t have the same level of activity,” Farha said. “Cutting the tax, cutting the fee, has been shown over and over and over to increase activity. That’s all I want to do.”
Mayor John Spring called for a voice vote on Farha’s motion. From the audience, it sounded like an equal numbers of “ayes” and “nays” were verbalized. Spring declared: “In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.”
The resolution will appear on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, which will be held at the Quincy Public Library annex, 514 York.
Speaking of the agenda, the original agenda came out at noon Friday as usual. Then according to a new procedure that Spring put in place this week, City Clerk Jenny Hayden waited two hours to see if anyone from the public would ask to speak to the council on any of the listed agenda items.
No one did.
However, one person who had come forward earlier in the week to ask for the opportunity to speak subsequently came forward Friday and asked to have his name withdrawn.