Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Homeland Insecurity

In January, Mr. Picente wanted to sell the old County Airport to State Homeland Security. Last week he was concerned about the state's committment to the Homeland Security project. Today, following a meeting Monday with state officials, he thinks the state is committed.

"It could work out to be very good for the county," Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said.

How did Mr. Picente come to this conclusion? Was he told something specific that impressed him? Was he shown a marketing study that demonstrates that a demand exists for the proposed facility's services? Was he shown a study demonstrating that people or other government agencies would be willing to pay for them? Was he shown a significant financial commitment on the part of the state beyond $6 million (which is only "chump" change compared to other state investments in education facilities elsewhere)? Or is Mr. Picente just engaging in pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking?

While awaiting the airport's move to Griffiss is offered as the excuse for the state's relative inactivity, it does not explain the lack of a lease. Seven months after destroying the terminal and opening to (few) classes:

"The details of the lease still are being worked out."

Looking at the state's plans as revealed today, several alternatives come readily to mind which require little to no construction and offer distinct advantages:

  • "A driving course with twists and turns" - Why not use Route 51 through Ilion Gorge? This road not only presents challenges, it comes complete with a water hazard!
  • "A mock Main Street with buildings" - How about Utica State Hospital? It not only has many abandoned buildings, but a high rise is included!
  • "Space to simulate a hazardous materials incident" - Harbor Point is the obvious choice here. Chemicals are already in the ground, ready to be sampled!
Seriously, Oneida County is the biggest risk-taker in this deal, and the Old County Airport is simply too valuable a piece of property to waste on a Homeland Security Training Center -- which is nothing more than a "venture" with no guarantee of sustaining itself. This region is already brimming with state facilities --- and if the State's plans to cut back on prisons are implemented, we'll have only more abandoned hulks like the Utica Psych Center to have to deal with.

Little to no attempt was made to market the old O.C. Airport for its "perfect-fit" use: as an airstrip with related uses. Maybe the County is afraid of creating competition for itself -- but that should be no excuse for not seeking to give the taxpayers the greatest potential return for their already substantial investment there. Honda Aircraft recently announced that it would be constructing business jets at the airport in Greensboro, NC, creating over 200 jobs averaging over $70,000 a year. Did anyone from here court them? The entire airstrip and related buildings could have been made available for their private use. There might be other potential customers -- but we'll never know if we don't look for them.

Homeland Security will be nothing but insecurity for us if we go along with the state's plans and wait and hope for something good to happen.


Anonymous said...

I find it ironic that Mr. Picente is worried about Oneida County and what is to be done with the Oneida County Airport. It takes money, lots of it, to run this County and believe me, residents are simply overtaxed.

Interestingly, Mr. Picente recently gave the Town of New Hartford $150,000 back in January 2007 for an expense that was already incurred. Hearing of all the hoopla that went on when Mr. Earle Reed accepted it, I began to wonder why was Mr. Picente throwing good money after bad?

When hearing of Mr. Picente's "generosity" and balancing that against the Town's problems over the failure in allowing residents to vote on a $5,000,000 Bond proposal...I began to wonder..."IS THE TOWN OF NEW HARTFORD ON THE VERGE OF INSOLVENCY?"

One would think that a cash rich Town like New Hartford could never become insolvent. However, with the rumors that abound over how the Town's finances have come into question...it begs the question, "is there a need for intervention by NYS Comptroller's Office?"


Anonymous said...

I live in Greensboro, NC. This area does activly recruit companies, and it's working. I wish the Utica area would start doing that. Then maybe we'd have a shot at moving back.

RomeHater said...

I've worked near the airport and there are at least 2 major parcel services located nearby. They currently truck everything to Syracuse to fly the cargo out. I wonder why they don't fly it out of Oriskany.

Or they could go the Rome route. Wal-Mart tore down an airport to build a distribution center. Maybe there's still a distributor who needs a new hub.