While Chautauqua County officials continue deciphering the best option for a new carrier at the Jamestown airport, Sen. Charles Schumer delivered some promising news this week.
Federal money designated for air service providers in rural areas will be provided to Chautauqua County in the amount of $1.9 million.
EAS funding, which is provided by the Department of Transportation and has been consistent for the past several years, was at risk of lapsing because of the airport's low number of passengers per day.
In January, Schumer visited the airport and urged the DOT to take a second look at passenger totals and make an exception, if need be. A more thorough review of daily passenger numbers revealed the average to be above the minimum requirement of 10 per day, Schumer said.
Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan said he was optimistic about the EAS funding, and securing a new service provider.
Of the minimum passenger numbers, he said gaining and keeping passenger counts above 10 per day is an important aspect for the subsidy, and that he had worked closely with Schumer's office.
"We are fortunate to have Sen. Schumer fighting for us here in Chautauqua County," Horrigan said.
"When Silver Airlines announced that they would be ending their passenger service in and out of Jamestown we turned to Sen. Schumer for help. As a result, the DOT promptly issued a new request for proposals resulting in two bids for service which are currently under review."
Silver Airways, a subsidiary of United Airlines, announced its departure of service from Jamestown in February, effective May 15.
Horrigan said a team composed of 10 community officials, led by Dave Sanctuary, temporary manager of parks and airports, met Monday.
"The group is composed of citizens from various sectors of business and the travel industry and we have reviewed and are continuing to evaluate the bids," Horrigan said.
While county officials decipher the best option, Silver must continue to provide service for Jamestown, as required by the EAS.
"Silver will be here until the next airline is chosen, or until they are released by the Department Of Transportation in Washington, which basically means they'll be here until we get another carrier," Sanctuary said. "We are not going to be losing our air carrier service in the short term."
A decision must be made by May 28, when the DOT will make the final decision as to which carrier the bid will be awarded.
"Jamestown is a growing airport that provides numerous benefits to the region, connecting residents with travel destinations and encouraging tourism in Chautauqua County's famous Concord grape region," Schumer said, adding that losing service would set the local economy back. "With this extension of federal support, the Jamestown Airport has already received several proposals for continued air service ensuring the economic boost the airport gives to the region will remain for years to come."
According to Schumer, the airport's connection to the broader region benefits Chautauqua County. For example, Federal Express has daily flights between the Jamestown Airport and Buffalo. This is a vital component to supporting business and tourism in the region, which relies on the influx of visitors every year, he said.