AIRPORT State’s Catch-22 with funding

One reason given to spend more than $1 million on a hangar at the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown is, basically, if you don’t take the state’s money, you won’t get the state’s money in the future.

We have no reason to doubt the county official who said it because similar statements have been made in city and county meetings over the years. When you think about it, the statement really is a scathing indictment of the way state officials think about spending your money.

At issue is a roughly $1.07 million rehabilitation of a dilapidated hangar at the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown. The state would pay roughly $902,000 while the county pays $171,960. Legislator Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, raised logical questions during the legislature’s Public Facilities Committee meeting in July about the need to spend the million dollars and whether the county should spend the $171,960 at a time when its capital reserve fund is half what it was at the end of 2016. Nazzaro also questioned the lack of a business plan for the airport to ensure that the million dollars in local and state funding isn’t wasted on a gleaming hangar that no one uses.

All of Nazzaro’s questions deserve answers before a single solitary penny is spent.

One argument given by Brad Bentley, county public facilities director, to accept the grant funding despite Nazzaro’s questions was that the county might not get future state money if it turns the hangar project down.

“If we turn this down, the next time we apply, we probably will not get it. You are thumbing your nose at the New York state DOT on this one if you say no,” Bentley said.

It is no secret the Chautauqua County Airport is struggling. It’s been nearly two years since commercial air service ended, and the county has been notified that its fixed base operator is leaving. County officials need to decide, once and for all, whether the county should be in the airport business at all before accepting grant money for anything other than basic safety programs.

It is ridiculous that state officials would be upset that a county walked away from a bad project and then have the nerve to penalize a good project in the future.