Alan J. Sorensen
Legislator District 9
Sullivan County, New York
The River Reporter
Sorensen is right on airport hangar
July 22, 2015 —
With the Montreign Casino set to open in 2017, some in Sullivan County think legislators should bet about $1 million in taxpayer money on the idea that gamblers and others will want to pay to make greater use of Sullivan County International Airport (SCIA), and be willing to pay higher fees to do so.
The county is already planning a 10,000 square foot expansion of the facility, 90% of which will be paid for by a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The county manager and the Department of Public Works have now been requesting that the expansion should be upped to 14,000 square feet—which would double the cost—mostly because of larger doors that would accommodate larger corporate jets. This plan, however, would mean bonding an additional $1 million, with taxpayers footing the bill, because the FAA will not kick in for the larger expansion.
Sullivan County Legislator Alan Sorensen has said that he doesn’t believe the people who rent hangar space at the airport in the Town of Bethel will be willing to pay fees large enough to cover the cost of the bonding debt.
Sorensen wrote in a recent article about this topic, “It is important for me to say that I respect the county staff members at the SCIA who continue to do a great job operating and maintaining the county airport. Without their dedication, the airport would not be what it is today.
“However, the airport was overbuilt in 1969 in anticipation of the coming of gaming, and with gaming now here, may finally be right-sized for its future operation. Now is not the time for county government to overbuild it once again.”
He suggests that the county pursue private-public partnerships for any future projects at the airport to ensure that any future expansions are designed for a market that will use them. We believe this is a more sensible way to go, than to jump into a larger expansion that may not be warranted.
This is not to suggest there is no synergy between airports and casinos. A story from the Press of Atlantic City explains how the casinos there will pay for a corporate jet to fly their really high rollers from their homes to the gaming floors and back again. The story also says, “Atlantic City’s casinos have long treated their top players far differently than other gamblers.”
There are, however, some significant differences between the airport in Atlantic City and the one in Sullivan County. In 2011, the Atlantic City International Airport had 105,083 aircraft operations, an average of 288 per day. For the 12-month period ending October 31, 2011 SCIA, had 28,650 aircraft operations, for an average of 78 per day.
While it is possible that a larger hangar would attract more private jets to SCIA once the Montreign Casino opens in the Town of Thompson in 2017, there is no guarantee of the outcome.
Further, gambling taxpayer money on a project that is intended to benefit individuals and corporations that are wealthy enough to own private jets does not seem like a wise investment on the part of taxpayers as a whole. This is especially true when it is clear that taxpayers will already be picking up the cost of the new county jail, bridge and road repair, and as Sorensen mentioned in his article, finding a suitable location for the sheriff’s road patrol, which is currently housed in a mansion that should probably be condemned.
For now, the legislature has tabled a vote on the hangar issue and will likely reconsider it after seeing a presentation about the proposed larger expansion. The airport is certainly an important facility in the county, and we endorse the more modest expansion that would be 90% paid for by the federal government.
But to commit an additional $1 million in local taxpayer dollars to an even larger expansion, without a guarantee that it will result in at least a break-even revenue scenario for the county, would be, as Legislator Cora Edwards said, not fair to county taxpayers.
Times Herald Record Editorial:
Cheers to Schumer, helpers; jeers to Sullivan legislators
Posted July 12, 2015
Jeers: To Sullivan County legislators for even thinking of spending more than $1 million - which they do not have - to build a new hangar at the county airport in the misguided hopes that it would attract high rollers with their private planes once the Montreign Resort Casino at Adelaar opens in 2017. The county first needs to find money to build a new jail, an obligation that the state will not delay much longer, to make major repairs on roads and bridges and to more adequately fund expansion at the community college. The casino was always sold on the idea that it would attract people from the metropolitan area, and those people are not going to be arriving in their private jets. This would be a conspicuous expenditure of public money with little hope of any meaningful return on the investment. If the casino developers want to build a new hangar, their investment would be welcome.
Airport Hang Up
Why I won't support a $1 Million Bond for Bigger Hangar
Posted July 8, 2015
By Alan J. Sorensen
While I am not a member of the Public Works Committee, I make a point of trying to attend every Committee meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature so that I can keep abreast of important issues.
Such an issue came up as discussion item at the June 11, 2015 Sullivan County Public Works Committee meeting. It was during that meeting that we received an update on the commercial hangar project at the Sullivan County International Airport (SCIA).
In 2015, the Sullivan County Legislature received a grant in the amount of approximately $1 Million to build a new 10,000 square-foot commercial hanger at SCIA. The County share for this hanger was approximately $99,000, or 10%, of the project cost. In February of 2015, the County Legislature voted to provide the matching funds for the FAA Grant and plans for the construction of the new hangar were advanced.
Now the County Manager and Division of Public Works are requesting that the County Legislature authorize the construction of a 14,000 square foot commercial hangar, which would have a new price tag of nearly $2,000,000 dollars.
Reasons cited for building a bigger hanger include the ability to house larger commercial jets and the feeling that the County might be able to charge higher rents since places like Teterboro Airport in New Jersey did not have availability of hangar space.
At the June Public Works Committee meeting, I inquired as to whether the FAA would be granting another $1 million for the bigger airport hanger, I was told that they were not and that the County would have to bond $1 million for the bigger hangar.
A resolution is now on the July 10th Public Works Committee Agenda to build the $2 million hangar with a handwritten note that future bonding or grant funding is needed.
Since the FAA has already confirmed they will not provide more money for the larger hangar, the likely result is the County will have bond a $1 million for this project.
I instead suggest the County would be better served pursuing a public-private partnership - meaning the private sector would pay up front the bigger hanger, rather than the taxpayers footing the bill.
It is important for me to say that I respect the County staff members at the SCIA who continue to do a great job operating and maintaining the County Airport. Without their dedication, the airport would not be what it is today.
However, the airport was overbuilt in 1969 in anticipation with the coming of gaming and with gaming now here, may finally be right-sized for its future operation. Now is not the time for County government to overbuild it once again.
Instead, we should be looking for public-private partnerships to ensure that future improvements are right-sized from the start. If private industry thinks there is a market for bigger hangars, then reason would have it that they would be willing to put their money down to secure a return on their investment.
This approach would reduce the risks to taxpayers, help to ensure our facilities are right-sized and enable the County to better address critical infrastructure needs like our County roads and bridges or finding a suitable facility for our County Road Patrol offers who are asked to work in deplorable conditions.
p.s. My quick research on "HangarTrader.com" revealed that a 10,000 square foot commercial hangar at Islip Macarther Airport in Long Island was renting for $6,000 per month, about the price the County would have to rent the proposed hangar to cover the additional $1,000,000 debt service on the larger hangar. I am not convinced we can command that kind of rent at SCIA. If there is no market for the hangar there will no profit or creation of jobs, only additional debt service.
Since January 2008, I have been representing the 9th Legislative District, fighting for open government, fiscally responsible spending, and addressing the needs of my constituents and the business community.
In 2009, I started this Outreach Blog to keep you informed of my efforts on behalf of the residents of my district and Sullivan County. This website is dedicated to keeping the people of District 9 and Sullivan County informed of the latest issues being debated and developments arising from actions taken by the County Legislature.
I hope to publish on this website my opinion of the critical issues surrounding our community and to keep you posted of news, events, and other important information about Sullivan County government and community.
Thank you for your continued support!
The County Legislative meets at the County Government Center in Monticello every third Thursday of the month. Regularly scheduled County Legislative committee meetings take place on the First and Second Thursdays of the month in the County Legislative Chambers. The meetings begin at 9:00 am.
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