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Tampa International Airport board to consider new rental car fee, hires renovation company

The agency that runs Tampa International Airport will decide next month whether to slap a $2.50 fee on every car rental contract issued there.

Faced with a car rental facility operating close to full capacity, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Thursday agreed to weigh the new fee to stockpile $8.9 million annually for expansion and pay down debt for current rental facilities.

After winning the informal assent of the four on-airport car rental tenants that pay about $30 million a year in rent, the fee emerged Thursday in a wide-ranging authority agenda.

The authority hired Hardin Construction to build a $20 million, two-year overhaul of the main terminal building.

The first phase, most of which will be done before the Republican National Convention in Tampa next summer, includes $1.5 million for 11 billboard-sized digital TV screens showing videos in the baggage areas and upgrading the restrooms for the first time since the main terminal opened in 1972.

Work will be done at night and halted before the GOP convention the week of Aug. 27, 2012.

Restrooms will get granite or Corian countertops rather than laminate. Paper towel dispensers will mostly give way to ultra-high-speed hand dryers. Big-screen TVs erected in unused corners of the third level meet-and-greet area will show "beauty shot" videos of the bay area and behind-the-scenes looks at the airport.

In addition, the authority will get remodeled offices, the third-level chapel and barber shop will be relocated, and Tampa will become the 61st airport in the county equipped with a USO for traveling service people.

Tampa is one of the few airports in the United States with a covered car rental ready line so close to the baggage areas. But the capacity of 1,300 cars there has been pressed since National/Alamo moved to the terminal.

Board members noted that less than 5 percent of car rental deals are booked by local residents and that Tampa is among the few big airports not charging a fee.

The fee is not included in airport chief executive Joe Lopano's proposed $175.5 million budget for the fiscal year that begins in October. The proposed budget assumes passenger traffic will increase 2 percent to more than 17 million passengers next year and represents a 4.7 percent spending increase that envisions no other new or increased fees.

The airport, which endured a three-year passenger traffic and revenue slump, is headed toward a 1.4 percent passenger traffic increase this year.

Among the features of the spending plan is a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for all 573 authority workers. They have not had a raise in three years and saw their retirement and health benefits trimmed.

The budget also envisions spending $263,000 to convert the bus fleet to natural gas, $4.8 million to replace air-conditioning towers so they run on reclaimed water and $152,000 to equip the airport's fleet of eight police cars with videocameras.

If approved by the authority board, the spending plan, which Lopano termed a "turnaround budget," would be below the $182.3 million the authority spent in prerecession fiscal 2008, but substantially more than $162.3 million at the bottom in fiscal 2010.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Tampa International Airport board to consider new rental car fee, hires renovation company 08/04/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 8:57pm]
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