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Controversy erupts at Warren County airport meeting

Jack Currie of Queensbury reviews his notes as he makes a statement opposing the proposed extension of a runway at Warren County’s Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport. Currie and about a dozen other people aired their views on the airport’s operation at a special meeting held Monday July 8 at Crandall Library.

Jack Currie of Queensbury reviews his notes as he makes a statement opposing the proposed extension of a runway at Warren County’s Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport. Currie and about a dozen other people aired their views on the airport’s operation at a special meeting held Monday July 8 at Crandall Library. Photo by Thom Randall.

— For two hours on Monday, a standing-room-only crowd peppered Warren County supervisors with questions and impassioned comments regarding a pending county airport expansion.

About 185 people attended the special meeting of the county Board of Supervisors’ Facilities Committee held July 8 in Crandall Library. The meeting was called in response to lobbying from the locally-based group Upstate New York Taxpayers Advocates.

Most all those offering comments were affiliated with the group and were opposed to a planned $8 million runway extension. The statements by UNYTA members were underscored with applause from the crowd.

The extension, first approved by the county board in 2002 to comply with FAA recommendations, adds 1,000 feet to the main runway’s 5,000-feet length. The project is to be bankrolled with a $7,200 federal grant and $400,000 in state money, leaving $400,000 for local taxpayers to shoulder.

Several citizens called for a public referendum to be held on the project. County Attorney Martin Auffredou said that holding a referendum, if allowable by state law, would be up to a vote of the full county Board of Supervisors.

Jack Currie of Queensbury warned that accepting federal funds would prevent the county from setting its own limits on hours of operation or other restrictions. The county would be forced to meet all FAA requirements or return the grant money, he said, adding that other municipalities that sought to shut down their airports were forced to keep them open for 20 years with the full cost being paid by local taxpayers.

“There are a lot of strings attached to grant money,” Currie said.

But County Airport manager Ross Dubarry said that the runway upgrade was primarily for safety and to boost the facility’s use.

The extension would allow more jets to land — carrying more fuel and larger payload — plus it offered more flexibility in case of an engine failure. Dubarry also said that according to a 2010 state study, one extra jet regularly using the airport would generate $1 million in additional local economic activity, as well as create five jobs.

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