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.
continued But Sean Garvey of Garvey Auto Group questioned whether it was wise for the county to spend about $800,000 of local taxpayer money per year on airport shortfalls while the county was $34 million in debt.
While Currie characterized the facility as a “hobby airport” for private pilots, Garvey asked whether it made sense to spend $1 million per year to meet these pilots’ needs.
Several speakers decried the use of tax money for the upgrades, but Brian Straub noted that it was actually users’ fees and flight surcharges that paid for airport improvements. When Straub was jeered by dozens in the crowd, Facilities Committee Chairman Dan Girard — a Glens Falls supervisor — threatened to have the hecklers removed. Straub continued that the runway expansion would provide $90 million in economic benefits for the region.
“It’s smart from an economic point of view,” he said.
Neal VanDorsten of Bolton said that moving forward with the runway extension was ”a no-brainer” considering that it was 95 percent funded by federal and state grants. Any other construction project leveraged so dramatically would prompt local taxpayers to be “hysterical with joy,” he said.
“This issue is noting more than a political football,” VanDorsten added.
But area residents Larry Waiman and Bonnie MacLean said expanding the runway would compromise local quality of life. Waiman spoke of the aircraft noise, and MacLean cited destruction of wetlands and wildlife habitat.
Mike McCabe warned that while an $8 million construction project was being billed by the county as economic stimulus, the money would likely go to out-of-area contractors, with very few local employees.
“To say Warren County would benefit is not accurate,” he said.
Kathleen Sonnabend said that for the decades, county leaders have touted expensive projects as saving taxpayer money or stimulating the economy, but they’ve ended up costing taxpayers plenty. She cited the bicounty trash burn plant, the cogeneration plant and the county jail as examples.