MAYVILLE - Changes need to be made to how the county's two airports are operated.
On Monday, the County Legislature's airport task force reported its findings to the Public Facilities Committee - including recommendations on how to lessen the airports' costs to taxpayers.
The real work still lies ahead of county lawmakers though, as there is much to be done despite the task force having completed its charge. Task force members said Monday that their recommendations will not have any impact on the 2012 budget, as what they presented were more long-term ways of addressing the airports' costs.
From left, legislators Bob Stewart, R-Ellington, Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, and Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, present the findings of the legislature’s airport task force to the Public Facilities Committee.
P-J photo by Nicholas L. Dean
From the task force's report:
"There needs to be a change in the management structure of the airports. Whatever shape this takes, there must be one person in charge of all operations, a person that is paid according to airport financial performance and has total control over the airport budget and has the ability to carry a funding surplus from one year into the next for long-term planning."
What the task force is recommending is that the county find an Airport Authority, outside management company or contract with one of the existing fixed-base operators to take over the total running of the airports.
"The long and short of it is that we are losing close to $1 million a year on the two airports," said Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, who led the task force with fellow legislator Larry Barmore, R-Gerry.
As part of their report, the task force members compiled a five-year history of the two airports' finances. The information details each the revenues and expenditures for both the airports over the last five years, with total losses from 2006 to 2010 totaling $4,412,289. The county airports will conclude this year with an expected combined loss of $925,341.
Of the two airports, the Jamestown airport has consistently cost the county more, with its five-year losses totaling $3,637,312 and Dunkirk's totaling $774,977.
"We're not talking about closing the airports," Nazzaro said of the task force's recommendations. "You really can't close them because we received federal funding to build the runways and so forth, so you just can't shut them down because you would have to repay those federal dollars. There are a lot of complexities there.
"But what we did discover is that we do feel there are operators out there..." Nazzaro continued. "And I think we need to approach them to discuss would they be interested in actually taking over the operation and becoming an Airport Authority."
Legislators on the Public Facilities Committee agreed to take the next month to review the task force's report, with plans to revisit it in October. In the meantime and at the committee's next meeting in October, legislators said they will be putting questions to the county's legal department regarding how exactly to go about the task force's proposed changes.
In addition to Nazzaro and Barmore, the task force was comprised of Hugh Butler, Dan Reininga and Scott Schang.