Airport Manager Corey Hurwitch addressing those at the March 21 Harrietstown meeting.
On Wednesday, March 21, the town of Harrietstown held a public meeting concerning the future of the Adirondack Regional Airport.
At issue is the airport’s yearly budget shortfall that this year is expected to top $300,000. Harrietstown taxpayers take up most of this slack through homeowner taxes.
“Harrietstown taxpayers can’t afford this anymore,” said Harrietstown supervisor Larry Miller. “We need your help to form a solution. We’ve tried to do this ourselves, but we can’t.”
“It’s costing the town a lot of money to operate, but it’s a regional asset,” said Shawn Bray, a consultant with the Rochester-based Passero Associates, a firm that has been working with the airport for the past two years.
Finding a way for Harrietstown to share the financial burden for the airport with surrounding communities is at the heart of many of the proposed solutions for the budget dilemma. According to Bray, surrounding communities give only $27,000 toward the over $2 million budget.
Airport Manager Corey Hurwitch outlined several possible solutions for the airport that included dropping commercial air service and closing the airport altogether, neither of which are preferred alternatives for action.
Passenger numbers on Cape Air — now better than 11,500 annually — have steadily increased since the airline started operating at the airport in 2008, and Hurwitch called closing the airport “extremely expensive.” That is because current FAA grants compel the airport to maintain the facility, and therefore staff, for another 20 years, even if the airport is closed.
In addition, losing either the airport or commercial service would prove detrimental to the region.
“We are their [Cape Air’s] fastest growing market,” Miller said.
The airport directly or indirectly supplies the region with 74 jobs and has a community economic impact of roughly $8 million each year, according to Bray.
Support for the airport was unilateral among speakers, and many other organizations and residents advocated the airport as well.
“We need the airport to attract out-of-region students,” said Dr. John Mills, president of Paul Smith’s College.
Larry Johnson, a faculty member at the Trudeau Institute said, “The Trudeau Institute places great value on the Adirondack Regional Airport,” both to attract and retain employees.
Of all the considered solutions, forming a regional airport authority may be the most likely course of action.
“For the ownership and operations, the airport authority is the best solution,” said Hurwitch.
To this end, Bray outlined several strategic initiatives that included getting more regionwide financial support for the airport, expanding marketing, developing relationships and partnerships with local organizations and economic development organizations such as ORDA, and the formation of a regional airport working group.
“They’re going to be reaching out to you in the next 30 days,” Bray said, talking to representatives of surrounding communities and municipalities.
“We are hoping to have all the partners together in the next 30 days and start to form a solution,” added Miller.
“From the comments tonight, I feel optimistic that we can move in a positive direction,” concluded Hurwitch said.