For years the Georgetown Municipal Airport has offered fuel to pilots at a discounted rate. There wasn't an official policy for doing so -- it was just an agreement between airport staff and the pilots.
When Georgetown Transportation Director Ed Polasek learned about it -- and learned it had cost the city an average of $23,600 a year since 2001 -- he killed the discount last week.
"That's a violation of city policy for this to be going on and I put a stop to the discounts last Monday," Polasek said.
That hasn't gone over too well with the pilots.
"Everyone here is pretty mad," said Rex McGreevy, who sells jet aircraft at Charlie Bravo Aviation at the Georgetown Airport. "In the pilot community there are some seriously disappointed individuals," he said.
Fuel discounts are typical at airports that serve small planes, said McGreevy. Polasek said he recently found out the discounts have been offered at the Georgetown Airport since the 1980s.
They ranged from 15 to 20 percent off from 1994 to 2001. Since 2001, pilots enjoyed a discount of 31 cents off per gallon to fill up their jets under certain conditions, Polasek said.
Stopping the discounts is "definitely going to affect business" at the airport because pilots will just fly elsewhere to get their gas, McGreevy said.
Polasek said the airport -- which is owned and operated by the city of Georgetown -- simply can't afford to offer those discounts. This year, for the first time, the airport is losing money because the city has had to pay for deferred maintenance, Polasek said.
To balance the airport's budget, the city had to use the $150,000 it had in a contingency fund for the airport plus an extra $2,000 from the city's general fund, he said.
He also said the City Council had never approved the discounts. The airport manager first started the practice in the 1980s, he said.
Polasek said he didn't know about the discounts until about four months ago, when someone asked the current airport manager for some key cards to use for the discounted gas, he said. The city stopped the use of the cards but found out that people who prepaid their fuel bills were still getting discounts, Polasek said.
There were about seven operators at the airport -- including some who owned multiple planes -- who were getting the discounts for the prepaid fuel, Polasek said.
Nobody will be disciplined for the lack of City Council approval because the city staff who first granted the discounts aren't around anymore, Polasek said.
The city has owned the 640-acre airport at 500 Terminal Road since 1945. It has two runways, a terminal and a control tower.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Georgetown has owned the airport since 1945.
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