January 12, 2016

County shapes airport funding priorities

AirportJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
The Cortland County Airport property is shown in October 2015.

Associate Editor

CORTLANDVILLE — Philip Krey doesn’t think Cortland County will get a share of$200 million in competitive grants for airports, but he’s got some ideas ready, just in case.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that five of 74 upstate airports will each get $40 million to update their operations and create private investment in commercial passenger and freight services.
“This is about stimulating the economy, creating jobs throughout the surrounding communities and making upstate New York stronger and more competitive than ever before,” Cuomo said in a news release.
Grants for the successful applicants will fund projects to enhance safety, improve operations, reduce environmental damage and improve passenger experience. They will leverage private investment and include support from both airlines and the community.
Krey, Cortland County’s highway superintendent, responsible for overseeing the Cortland County Airport, isn’t holding his breath for $40 million — about 68 times larger than the airport’s $589,000 annual operating budget.
“It’s probably going to go to the larger, commercial airports,” Krey said Monday. “But by the time it goes through the budget process, maybe there will be something for the smaller airports.”
He already has a couple of items on his wish list:
* $545,000 to buy and install jet-fuel tanks and pumps.
* $110,000 for security cameras and a ceilometer used to determine the height of cloud cover.
Upstate New York has10 commercial airports in a triangle from Buffalo to Plattsburgh to Westchester County. The three closest to Cortland are Ithaca-Tompkins, Greater Binghamton and Hancock International in Onondaga County. A $40 million payment could do a lot for any of those airports, and much more than Krey can easily list for Cortland’s and its lone 3,400-foot runway.
Still, Cortland County began drafting a new master plan for the airport in September, and having a wish list of projects in place improves the chances of future funding for the facility, which includes three hangars, 35 T-hangars and 30 tie-downs.
“It will absolutely identify what the needs are,” Krey said.
Theoretically, he said, it could include extending the runway, which would let jets use less power on takeoff, thereby creating less noise to disturb neighbors.
But that’s part of the process, to be completed later this year. Here’s the planning schedule:
* January — Technical advisory committee meeting.
* March — Technical advisory committee meeting, public workshop and presentation to the county Legislature’s Highway Committee.
* April — Submit draft plan for review by state Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration.
* June — Present final plan to county Legislature.
* August — Execute the plan.

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