Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey is considering expanding its parking lot in to accommodate the growing number of customers choosing to park and fly. Airport staff will work with the Airport Authority board’s Finance and Lease Committee to review financial projects and determine available funding before making a recommendation to the full board about whether to move forward with the project.

“As our air service continues to grow, demand on our existing facilities is also increasing, including the parking lot,” stated an agenda brief for the Airport Authority board meeting Tuesday.

The parking lot expansion and improvements have been identified as a “key capital improvement project,” according to the brief. Parking Management Consultant Chris Johnson with C.A. Johnson Consulting presented to the board on Tuesday the benefits of funding an expansion.

Johnson explained that by funding a lot improvement, capacity could increase by 60 new stalls with a one- to three-year return on investment. Currently, according to a proposal by T-O Engineers, an auxiliary lot improvement would cost an estimated $415,000. That project would include heated stairs and a heated ramp. The auxiliary lot proposed for improvement is directly west of the airport operations building, south of the lower parking lot and adjacent to or east of the parking booth.

According to Johnson, the parking lot exceeded capacity on 17 occasions in 2019, meaning that the parking lot management, managed by The Car Park, had to implement a backup plan that included requiring airport employees to park in the gravel auxiliary lot and causing some travelers to change their plans and be dropped off for their flights. For some travelers making their way to the airport from rural areas such as Carey, altering plans only a few hours before their flights may not be an option.

Contention on going cashless

Initially brought up during an Airport Authority board meeting in December, a proposal that the parking lot go cashless would create a more autonomous system that would eliminate the need for a parking lot attendant to be available to handle cash. The move would save on payroll, creating more revenue for the parking lot. However, not all board members are in agreement.

During Tuesday’s meeting, an informal straw poll was taken to determine whether the board should even continue entertaining the idea of a cashless parking lot. Two board members were opposed and four were in favor, Airport Manager Chris Pomeroy was given the nod to bring the issue up at another meeting in the future, though at least one board member said he would adamantly oppose automation.

“I’ll never agree to this,” former Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said, noting that everyone should have the option of using cash.

Haemmerle was reappointed to the Airport Authority board during a Hailey City Council meeting on Dec. 9. He will serve two more years through Dec. 31, 2021.

The proposal for going cashless is broken up into two phases.

Phase one would include eliminating cash-collecting shifts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (currently there is no cash collection between midnight and 9 a.m.) and have a station attendant available during peak busy times to assist and educate the public. In addition, Johnson suggested public outreach to start informing the public that the airport will no longer accept cash. Phase two would eliminate all cash collection by July and continue to provide an airport attendant during peak times to help expediate the process.

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