Would a private entity be interested in purchasing the Chautauqua County Airport in Dunkirk?
That is the question County Executive Greg Edwards is working to answer. Currently, the county is in the process of analyzing the Dunkirk airport as an asset, to determine whether it could potentially be sold to someone else to run. In the meantime, though, upgrades are being made to the airport, using a combination of local and federal funds.
"There continues to be ongoing improvements in the operations up there," Edwards said. "What was planned for, and is going forward, is some security lighting, or the lighting for landing and takeoff. That's the project that is most active right now, and that is federally funded, with a little bit of a local share. But, it is one of those ones that is required of us if we are going to continue to have traffic in and out of the Dunkirk airport."
In his state of the county address in February, Edwards revealed there is an effort under way to market the airport for sale to a private entity. He said this would then eliminate the county's costs for operating the airport, allowing the county to focus on improving the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown.
The federal dollars that have come in for the airport expansion and maintenance come with an obligation to continue operating the airport as an airport for 20 years. However, Edwards said there are very rare circumstances where there has been a waiver or an authorization to transition the airport into something else.
"The idea was to investigate the value of the airport as an asset, and then begin an analysis of the question, 'Is there a market out there that would have someone be interested in acquiring the Dunkirk airport to operate it as an airport?'" Edwards said. "Right now, we are in the analysis phase. We sidelined a little bit, because of the necessary analysis of upgrading the lighting and those sorts of things where we have refocused our energies in the last few months."
By upgrading the lighting at the Dunkirk airport, which Edwards said is primarily used for privately owned jets and planes, it can remain competitive.
"(Upgrading the lighting) certainly enables (the airport) to operate at the highest of standards," he said. "It's one of those things that we have to do to remain active and competitive, and so we are going forward with those investments as we continue to analyze all of our options."