Pierce County Pilots Fighting Rent Increases

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A hangar tenant at Washington state's Pierce County Airport (Thun Field) is trying to rally local pilots against hangar and tie-down rent increases that he claims are at least immoral and may be unconstitutional. John Prukop, "organizer" of the Thun Field Pilots' Association, says the proposed increase (to $197 a month) was approved at the Nov. 21 meeting of the local county board, only three days after most tenants at the airport received notice. He claims the increase is unjustified because there have been no improvements to the already-substandard hangars (no doors, leaking roofs) and there's no economic justification because the airport is debt free and covering its costs. But what he says particularly rankles him is that the county ordinance wording appears to apply retroactive rate increases for 2004, 2005 and 2006 in a section that says "Pierce County Public Works and Utilities is proposing an increase to the fees representing a 5-percent increase per year for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006." Whether that's a violation of laws that prohibit backdating is a matter for linguists and lawyers to decide, but Prukop says there's no doubt pilots are underrepresented in the political structure that decides such things. According to Prukop, the Thun Field Advisory Commission, a 12-member board that is the local council's eyes and ears at the airport, is composed mostly of non-pilots, some of whom are actively anti-airport. Pierce County does have a referendum mechanism in place to fight council-approved ordinances and Prukop and his group have started that process, which means the fee hikes are on hold for at least three months.