Monday, April 07, 2008

Almost 100 Bucks ...

Almost 100 Bucks . . . for every man, woman and child in Oneida County. That's how much the County has borrowed for the new Oneida County Airport at the former Griffiss Air Base.

That's a lot of money for a facility that practically none of the men, women and children in Oneida County ever see because Oneida County has not had scheduled air service since 2002. That's a lot of money for a county which has one of the highest sales taxes in the nation, some of the highest property taxes in the nation, some of the highest utility rates in the nation . . . . but where incomes are among the lowest in the nation.

Twelve million dollars of the total $22 million were borrowed just this year ... That's a lot of money to borrow with little advanced notice to the public and legislators . . . and little media coverage (at least so in Greater Utica) . . . . but also apparently with little debate considering the county legislators' "rubber-stamp" approval given in February.
“I look at it as the cost of development and the cost of growing,” County Executive Anthony Picente said. “Doing nothing doesn't grow jobs or grow the county.”
Neither does spending money that you cannot afford to spend. Spare the rhetoric, Mr. Picente. Our tax rates, caused by big spending, are driving jobs away.

While we are happy to have Empire Aero, the cost seems hardly worth it. We've already spent $25,000 per job created to date ($10,000,000 already spent divided by 400 jobs) and will wind up spending $27,500 per job if everything goes WELL and we have 800 jobs after spending $22 million. Of course, these amounts do not include millions more in financing charges, nor the millions the County is doling out in other forms of support (such as on site MVCC training).

We have lost a lot more. The Old Oneida County Airport in Whitestown was a gem, was well taken care of, and was perfectly sized for the Utica-Rome market. Private pilots loved it. When it had scheduled air service to places that people wanted to go, the people who flew out of there loved it. (Where else could you park FREE and literally walk less than 200 yards to your plane?) The place only needed some better marketing -- but with the incompetents/lazy people in charge of Oneida County for the last 30 years, it should come as no surprise that smaller places like Elmira continue to have regular air service while Utica-Rome does not. Inexcusable!

Given the quality of our leaders, it is no surprise that we abandoned our gem and are now stuck with a facility that is far too big for our population to justify or afford.

The only question now is, how long are people willing to take more of the same?

1 comment:

Chris Van Patten said...

Yeah, spending this kind of money on an airport is fine, except we don't use it! Putting the airport at Griffiss is all well and good, at probably makes sense to consolidate Oneida County's air services in one place, but I can't see a justification for $12 million. That's an insane amount of money for a place that probably has the air facilities (runways and the like) in place.

Oh and this is my favorite quote from that article: “I like to believe the county isn't just throwing money in a deep, dark hole, and that there is some logic to what they are trying to do,” [Arthur Friedberg, Mohawk Valley Community College economics professor] said.