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State lowers after-hours snow removal fee at Alaska airports

November 27, 2018

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — State transportation officials have reduced fees for after-hours snow and ice removal at Alaska airports after concerns were lodged from officials on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska.

The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities reduced fees after officials at the Klawock Airport expressed concern about the expense of keeping snow off their runway. The department also added an hour to regularly scheduled hours at Klawock to keep costs down, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.

Department spokeswoman Aurah Landau said Monday a desire to lower overtime costs led the department to adopt a regulation requiring payment of $1,000 per hour for snow removal after regular hours of maintenance crews. In Klawock, where a six-person crew maintains both roads and runways, workers ended their day at 1:30 p.m.

Scott Van Valin, owner and director of operations for Island Air Express, the airport’s main carrier, and area elected officials appealed to Gov. Bill Walker.

The department announced Nov. 5 that the fee will be reduced to $250 per hour per piece of snow removal equipment and the Klawock crew’s regular hours will be extended one hour. Van Valin called that “completely acceptable.”

The fee change will apply to airports throughout the state.

“Our pursuit not only helped operators in Klawock, but statewide,” Van Valin said.

Van Valin estimated that the Klawock runway might need after-hours clearing five to eight times between November and March. Medical evacuations and lifesaving operations will continue to receive full, immediate service at no additional charge, according to the department.

The changes mean that some Prince of Wales road work will be diverted to the airport, according to the department. The crew oversees 355 lane miles (570 lane kilometers) of roadway and 19 lane miles (30 lane kilometers) of airport runway on the island.

Van Valin said it’s unrealistic for the Klawock station to maintain so many road miles with just six people. The Klawock Airport is underfunded compared to similar state airports that also provide more than 10,000 boardings per year, he said.

“We’re not asking for the world, just asking that Klawock be set up like every other airport in its class in the state,” he said.

The matter will be taken up with the administration of Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy.

“As soon as the new governor gets settled, we are going to be knocking on his door,” Van Valin said.

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Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com

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