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Free parking at Dickinson airport comes to an end

With an increasing percentage of vehicles left parked long-term, Dickinson's Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport is looking at transitioning to paid parking.

Airport manager Matt Remynse responded Monday during a Dickinson City Commission meeting at City Hall to City Commissioner Klayton Oltmanns' concern over seeing many of the same cars parked at the airport for long periods of time. Oltmanns wondered if it had something to do with free parking.

"I think that would be about 20 percent of the cars in the lot that are there for long-term, three months at a time," Remynse said. "One of the things we have found through the master plan is that we need to start moving toward paid parking."

Remynse said paid parking would allow for more revenue for projects.

"We can't rely upon citizens and outside entities for our costs associated with projects, and paid parking is one way to increase revenues at the airport," he said. "We have higher priority projects than putting in additional parking. One thing paid parking does is help to restrain parking a little bit."

Remynse discussed the parking issue with the City Commission before it approved a request for an additional $413,000 loan for the airport to move ahead with its plans.

"We had our second citizen advisory committee meeting and started talk about different layouts of the airport, and we did find some cost savings in there but the numbers are very preliminary," he said.

He said designing for the upgrades would begin this fall, so the project could be bid out in the spring.

The hope would be for parking to generate revenue by the summer of next year.

"My board met and one of the things they noted is that they want to take a much more aggressive timeline with this," Remynse said. "They don't want to sit on a $1 million loan with the city and not be able to generate money for a year. Generate money as soon as possible and we can start paying on the loan. The faster we can get this loan paid over, the faster the airport can utilize 100 percent of the revenues for airport projects."

Remynse said the airport can accommodate about 200 vehicles on the parking lot, as well as the gravel lot, but he said more space may be needed if the airport can get United Airlines service.

"Another reason to push quickly is because we are anticipating that we could announce United Airline service in September and it would more than likely be a December to January start of service," he said.

With paid parking, Reymnse said there would be an entry lane and two exit lanes. At the exit stations, he said there would be credit card processors and personnel available to validate it.

"Infrastructure and costs would be about $300,000 for us to move forward with that, and that includes modifications to the parking lot that we would need to make," he said.

Mayor Dennis Johnson believes the upgrades will be a plus for patrons.

"I think it would be really exciting if we could end up with United because that would be small jets, as I understand it," he said. "I suspect that we have people not using our service because we don't have jets, so I think this would be a great thing. That just pumps the whole professionalism of the airport service we can offer, and I think putting in paid parking does the same thing. I know I favor the request."