Airport may be a questionable investment

Guest Commentary

To the Adirondack Journal:

I feel compelled to share my views on the development of Warren County’s Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.

The county supervisors continue to approve the airport’s ongoing expansion plans — including the 1,000-feet extension of one runway — in line with a 2002 Master Plan.

The rationale behind these improvements were sound and supported by financial resources and projected economic benefits at the time the plan was formally adopted. However, having reviewed relevant documents, my conclusion is that there is no basis for continuing along the chartered path, not withstanding issues of safety.

The primary reason for the expansion was to drive area economic development by attracting new businesses and jobs while the county would benefit from fuel tax and sales tax generated. The funding of the expansion calls for 90 percent reimbursement from FAA grants — from commercial passenger flight ticket surcharges, 5 percent from the state and 5 percent locally. This means that anyone in this county who travels by commercial airlines is funding the county airport expansion. Thus, it is your money, along with the other 10 percent — that’s 100 percent taxpayer money.

The crucial issue is the return on the taxpayer's investment. This expansion plan, if fully carried out, will require the future outlay of about $22 million through 2017 — all taxpayer money. I do not know what has been spent from 2002 to present. However, since Jan. 1, 2009, the county has allocated an average of $800,000 per year towards the operation of the airport including the services of an airport manager — which is critical to overseeing FAA regulations.

In return, the county has received a minimum of $70,000 in payments from the county's Fixed Base Operator each year. Included in this payment is 7.5 cents for each gallon of fuel sold to aircraft owners, which averages roughly $ 12,000 per year.

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