MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County will have airports for at least another 20 years.
That was the word Wednesday from Majority Leader John Runkle, R-Stockton.
A resolution to accept a grant for the Dunkirk Airport was on the County Legislature's agenda for the third time Wednesday, passing in a 17 to 8 vote.
Legislators had opposed accepting the grant in past meetings on the basis that if the county wants to get out of the airport business, officials should stop accepting federal dollars.
Having checked with the county attorney, Runkle said Wednesday that the county is already committed to having airports for the next 20 years. Accepting the grant for the Dunkirk airport, he explained, wouldn't extend that timeline at all - it would only serve to make the airport more attractive should the county ever attempt to sell it.
Being committed to having airports does not mean the county itself has to run them.
Additionally, for a local cost share of only $3,000, according to Dick Babbage, R-Bemus Point, the county would be receiving $122,000 in federal dollars.
Moreover, the expenditure, he pointed out, has technically already been approved - as it's part of the 2010 capital budget.
The money will go to extend a runway at the Dunkirk airport.
In October, 14 legislators opposed accepting the grant - Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; George Borrello, R-Irving; Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown; Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown; John Gullo, D-Fredonia; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; David Himelein, R-Findley Lake; Vickeye James, D-Jamestown; Maria Kindberg, D-Jamestown; Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood; Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown; John Runkle, R-Stockton; Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia and Scot Stutzman, I-Jamestown.
Ahlstrom led the opposition to accepting the grant, arguing that the county can't quit operating its airports until it stops accepting such funds. He again voiced opposition to accepting the grant Wednesday.
"I'm not saying this is a bad project," Ahlstrom said. "What I'm saying is ... until this legislature decides that it has the guts to stand up to something and say 'no' to something, the only guarantee is that our taxes will continue to go up."
Ahlstrom continued on to argue that the county cannot be everything to all people and advised that officials evaluate what it should be providing.
"We cannot continue to be the providers of everything to everybody because if we do ... there will not only not be any industry in this county, there won't be anybody in this county," Ahlstrom said. "We can't say that we're concerned about taxes and continue to spend money regardless of where it comes from."
Along with Ahlstrom, Cornell, DeJoy, Gullo, Heenan, James, Kindberg and Mueller all again voted against accepting the grant.
Legislators Borrello, Himelein, Nazzaro, Runkle, Scudder and Stutzman switched their votes Wednesday from when the resolution was up in October. Again voting for the resolution were Babbage; Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton; Bob Duff, R-Sheridan; Jay Gould, R-Ashville; Ron Lemon; R-Frewsburg; Jerry Park, R-Forestville; Doug Richmond; Bob Stewart, R-Ellington; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott and Fred Croscut, R-Sherman.
"We have some jewels in our county that are very proactive in our existing businesses and for the future development of growth and new business," said Park. "These are the county airports which we are very well respected for the services that they provide for the corporate and private aircraft. If we want to survive in the 21st century, we need to provide the infrastructure to allow our businesses to prosper in this age of jet aircraft."