The Ongoing Battles In Naples

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Authority, Tenants Argue Over Fuel Fee Increases ...

The Naples Municipal Airport (KAPF) -- which has recently been associated with Stage 2 aircraft restrictions and political bickering -- is now adding some additional salt to this aeronautical wound. The Naples Airport Authority says it is setting aside $600,000 for legal fees for the next budget year, but airport tenants argue the fees are costing them money. On Sept. 18, the five-member board unanimously approved the $10.3 million 2003-2004 budget, which includes a fuel flowage fee increase from 35 cents to 40 cents a gallon. In 2000, the flowage fee was 25 cents per gallon and was increased to 35 cents in 2002. Gail Cureton, director of communications for the authority, told the Naples News this fee is charged per gallon to tenants on the airfield who have permits to dispense fuel into their aircraft. Jet 1 Chief Executive J. Scott Phillips said the authority should get out of the fueling business and stick to government operations.

"They keep raising these rates to pay for this Stage 2 thing, and it's costing us a fortune," Phillips said. "The users of the airport have been totally ripped off."

... While Stage 2 Debate Continues

Naples Airport Authority Executive Director Ted Soliday said the flowage fee increase is caused by an increase in operating costs, such as fire services, but no mention of the large litigation costs on the tiring Stage 2 issue were mentioned in the authority's statement. The authority has spent more than $3 million in legal fees and studies while battling the Federal Aviation Administration over the Stage 2 jet ban at the city airport. As a result of that ban, the FAA is withholding grants, something the county government doesn't want to lose. The FAA ruled in the spring that the airport's refusal to allow the Stage 2 jets to fly in and out of the Naples airport is discriminatory and violates federal law. The jets, which were made primarily between 1975 and 1983, are noisier than jets made in subsequent years. The federal government has banned all Stage 2 jets weighing more than 75,000 pounds, but Naples is the first airport in the country to ban Stage 2 jets that weigh less than 75,000 pounds. The battle between the authority and the Federal Aviation Administration could now move to a federal appellate court, which is only one notch below the U.S. Supreme Court.