Metro-East News

Free parking could end at MidAmerica Airport; commissioners to review options

Free parking at MidAmerica Airport might be coming to an end. The commission on Thursday began the process of looking at possible systems for charging for parking, but has not settled on any daily prices.
Free parking at MidAmerica Airport might be coming to an end. The commission on Thursday began the process of looking at possible systems for charging for parking, but has not settled on any daily prices.

The St. Clair County Public Building Commission on Thursday began preliminary discussions on whether to charge for parking at MidAmerica Airport, by seeking proposals for parking and revenue-control systems.

“What we’re dealing with is the demand for parking seems to be challenging to satisfy,” Commissioner Jim Nations said. “The financial cost of that is becoming significant. What we’re trying to discover (whether) there is a reasonable way for us to gain revenue that will allow us to keep up with the demand for more parking. We don’t know the answer yet, but we do believe we’re optimistic the demands are going to continue to be there.”

If the airport charged between $3 and $5 a day to park, it could bring in between $793,875 and $1.3 million annually, according to estimates in an airport memo to commissioners. Currently people may park for free at the airport, which is in the midst of expanding its parking lot.

However, Airport Director Tim Cantwell said the airport hasn’t settled on any particular parking charge.

“We don’t have any ideas about a charge,” Cantwell said to commissioners Thursday. “I’m sure it will be this body that will figure it out.”

Cantwell said every option is on the table.

“Let’s get somebody who does parking and have them tell us what the options are, and you could decide what you want to do,” Cantwell said. “Obviously there’s a need. I think there’s a need to have in and out, less than three hours, you don’t need to capture that.”

He did add there are people who park at the airport for months at a time.

The commission also would need to determine what type of system to install. According to commission documents, an exit plaza recently installed in northern Illinois cost $650,000. The plaza included canopy lanes, three lanes of exit equipment, manned ticket booths and a small office for employees.

“No decision is made,” Cantwell said. “You could go all the way to the point and say no, you don’t want to do it.”

In other action:

▪  Union deal: The commission approved a union deal with District 9 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers that has six positions.

There are positions for six maintenance workers at the airport, but not all are filled because of budgetary constraints, Cantwell said.

The contract is for four years. It includes 1.5 percent wage increases for the first three years of the deal, and 2 percent for the fourth year.

There also is a $20 increase for a work boot allowance, and pay for inexperienced entry level workers, will start at 60 percent of the base wage rate for the job. The rate will increase as they continue with their employment.

“The progression is on them,” Cantwell said.

Cantwell said the workers at the airport have revamped existing equipment for use at MidAmerica such as a highway department truck.

“These guys are magicians,” Cantwell said. “They’re not maintenance guys, they’re artisans. They adapt stuff.”

The St. Clair County Board has to approve the contract as well.

▪  Additional seating: To accommodate the increased passengers with the increased flights set to begin in May, the PBC approved the purchase of 100 more chairs in the airport terminal for $27,625 from Egyptian Workspace Partners, in Belleville.

“During the 2017 peak summer schedule, three flights will occur simultaneously multiple times per week,” a memo to commissioners said. “This scenario will result in greater seating demand than seat availability.”

▪  New airport tenant: Commissioners approved new lease with On Site Aircraft Services, which provides maintenance work for Allegiant Air. The office space, which would be for operations and parts storage, would bring in $2,400 a year to the airport, for two years.

“It’s always good to have online maintenance at your airport, and we haven’t had it,” Cantwell said. “They’ve been hustling over from Lambert.”

▪  Boarding bridge work: The boarding bridge improvements planned by the airport is going to be $41,000 more expensive. In February the PBC approved a $332,514 contract to update its boarding bridges.

The Federal Aviation Administration will pay for 90 percent of the increased cost, leaving the airport to pick up the remaining $4,100.

The extra work includes replacement of flooring, cab curtain seals, flashing, and new door interlocks and supports.

▪  Billboard lease: The PBC approved a new lease with Mid America Advertising for two billboard spaces owned by the airport.

The lease is for 10 years for $200 a month or 30 percent of the gross sales revenue per month from advertising, whichever is greater.

Cantwell said Mid America Advertising’s current leases bring in about $30,000 a year.

▪  Airport master plan: The PBC is putting together a committee to select an engineering firm to update the airport’s master plan.

Committee members are slated to include St. Clair County Director of Zoning Anne Markezich, PBC members Jim Nations and Charles Lee from the PBC, and County Administrator Debra Moore.

Terry Schaddel, the airport planning engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the master plan would look at a holistic view of passenger, cargo, other development capabilities for non-aeronautical areas, and would review the existing facilities, the planning activity levels, terminal square footage and the amount of parking.

The last master plan was done in 2007.

“We’ve been watching for a year and half now as the enplanement levels continue to grow exponentially in certain cases,” Schaddel said.

Schaddel was asked by the PBC to give an evaluation of MidAmerica.

“An airport is a reflection of its community that it serves, it’s a part of the quality of life of the community it serves. Only a community can make that determination,” Schaddel said. “It’s what reflects the community and what the community needs are. Right now those community needs are being very well served. We’re watching very carefully the expanded enplanement levels.”

▪  Detention center work: The PBC also approved work to take place at the juvenile detention center.

Commissioners approved additional asphalt work at the center at a cost of $10,415. The work is part of the ongoing ADA upgrades at the detention center. The project includes removing and replacing a piece of asphalt at the detention center parking lot.

Commissioners also approved a $155,800 retrofit of the detention centers air conditioning system. The project would update the controls for the heating ventilation and air conditioning at the detention center to electronic controls from pneumatic controls.

“The pneumatic isn’t adequate today to be able to control our energy,” said Director of Buildings Jim Brede. “With electronics we could control it better, we could control it off-site.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter