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"Airport refuses to help with parking operator labor costs"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Airport refuses to help with labor costs
Minimum-wage boost will hurt parking revenue, company says
By Chuck Slothower
The Durango (CO) Herald

The Durango-La Plata County Airport Commission denied on Thursday a request
by its parking operator to recoup the anticipated costs of paying a higher
minimum wage. 

Colorado voters last month approved raising the minimum wage to $6.85 an
hour, beginning Jan. 1. The airport's parking operator, Republic Parking
System of Chattanooga, Tenn., estimated its labor costs would increase
$10,854 in 2007 alone. 

The company asked the airport to allow it essentially to deduct its
increased costs from the airport's take of parking revenues. 

Ron Dent, airport manager, forwarded a staff recommendation to deny the
request. The company should have expected its labor costs to increase over
the life of its five-year agreement with the airport, Dent said. Republic's
agreement to operate the Durango airport's parking was signed on Nov. 1,

Grand Junction's Walker Field Airport denied a similar request, Dent said,
while Montrose Regional Airport amended its agreement with Republic to
slightly increase the company's revenue. 

The Durango-La Plata commission voted overwhelmingly to deny Republic's

"I don't think it's fair to ask the public to pay higher rates so Republic
can hold its profit line," said Tom Greenhut, a commission member. "Republic
is a huge corporation." 

Wages for Durango employees of Republic start at $6 an hour and top out at
$9 an hour, Dent said. 

Parking is one of the airport's biggest moneymakers. So far this year,
parking revenues have reached $422,000. 

It would not help Republic much to raise its parking rates because the
airport takes the lion's share of parking revenues. Once revenues reach
$400,000, Republic's take drops to 9 percent under its current agreement
with the airport.

The commission also discussed a proposal by BP to share the airport's
waste-water treatment capacity in exchange for water - a key to future
growth at the airport.

The airport recently built a waste-water treatment facility with the
capacity to handle 25,000 gallons per day. BP wants to use 6,000 gallons of
that for its nearby office. BP would in exchange drill wells for the
airport's use, Dent said.

The airport's current water supplies "are just inadequate for what we want
to do," Dent said. He added, "It's a very mutually beneficial proposal."

The commission gave its initial approval to the project, but will finalize
plans at a future meeting.

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