Committee gets report on county airports

MAYVILLE – Monday night’s Public Facilities Committee meeting involved a short agenda, and included a financial update on Chautauqua County airports.

George Spanos, director of public facilities, said there had been a lot of discussion as of late regarding both operations.

“Generally, aviation has a big impact on the economy,” he said. “If we were to go into 2013, which we just audited and closed, contribution is around $800,000 from our taxpayers that they provide to maintain our airports.”

Revenues for 2013 were $151,701 for the Jamestown Airport, while $31,799 was generated in Dunkirk.

The numbers did not include revenue from Jamestown Airport’s private businesses a FedEx distribution facility, Hertz car rental services, the Tarmac Cafe and the airport’s airline, Silver Airways.

Combined, both airports employ 93 full-time and 7 part-time workers.

“The economic impact they have on our economy is 100 jobs,” Spanos said.

Paula Dejoy, D-James-town, asked for an update on the process of finding a new carrier for the airport, as United Airlines announced permanent elimination of subsidiary Silver Airways’ services in and out of Jamestown in February.

Silver’s contract expires in May.

Spanos said the Department Of Transportation has not yet finalized a request for proposals, but continues to work with Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office.

“We have been very fortunate that federal officials have been very supportive,” Spanos said. “They are working diligently.”

County Executive Vince Horrigan said Dave Sanctuary, acting director of county parks and airports, has been in contact with airlines which might be interested in providing services for Jamestown.

“There are a lot of moving parts but we’re optimistic we’re going to have some options,” Horrigan said. “We want to get this new airline in as soon as possible.”

DeJoy asked how big of an impact not providing services would have, and which businesses consistently use the airport.

Horrigan said Cummins and Bush Industries are regular customers.

“It’s not just businesses, but tourism too,” he added, stating that residents of Chautauqua Institution use the airport.

According to Spanos, there has been a 15-20 percent increase in passenger numbers since last year, thanks to recent $49 flights between Jamestown and Cleveland.

“The numbers are there if the airline provides good service and inexpensively,” he said.

In other matters, user fees at the County Landfill and County Transfer Stations will be waived for community and civic groups as part of organized cleanups of public parks, roadways, waterways and other public areas from April 26 through May 17.

Legislators Lisa Vanstrom, R-West Ellicott, and Mark Tarbrake, R-Jamestown, proposed the resolution in recognition of Earth Day.

Fees will be waived, provided community and civic groups advise the landfill one week prior to the beginning of the cleanup activity.