Friday, January 13, 2012

The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

Out with the old in 2012 ... the old Airport Commissioner, that is. Per the OD:
Oneida County Aviation Commissioner Vernon Gray is out. . .
“It’s a new term, and I made the decision to go in a different direction,” County Executive Anthony Picente said. . . .
David Wood, the chairman of the county Board of Legislators Airport Committee, said he had been informed Wednesday evening of the decision not to reappoint Gray.
“While he was there, Vernon certainly was instrumental in improving the airport,” he said. “I think there was a difference in vision between him and Tony.”
It seems like only yesterday Mr. Gray was appointed. Back then (November, 2008) I took to task some of the new commissioner's comments to the press ("New Commissioner, Old Vision") and then HE took ME to task to set the record straight!  The fact that he took time to do so in a thoughtful manner gave me reason to hope that he could turn things around.

Per the Rome Sentinel, Board Chairman Fiorini indicated that when Mr. Picente advised him of Gray's dismissal:
"He didn’t go into it," said the board chairman. "Obviously he’s got his reasons. I can’t say what went wrong... I’m not privy to that."    
If Mr. Fiorini can't say what went wrong, who can?  

Somehow I have the feeling that the County has just lost a good man.

Perhaps the reason why no one seems to be saying what went wrong is because no one really knows what went wrong.  To judge right from wrong, you need some standard for comparison. In the case of running any operation, the standard is the business plan.

In "Poised for Take Off???" 3 years ago I asked regarding Griffiss:
To the "officials:" Where's the business plan?
  • What is the need that this over-sized airport will fill?
  • What data exists and what assumptions are being made to support any conclusion that this albatross can ever be made profitable?
  • What data exists and what assumptions are being made to support any conclusion that this albatross will ever return more to the taxpayers than is being taken from them
These questions need to be asked again today.  What is the "different direction"  that the County Executive wants to move in? Does anyone really know?  Is there data to support the vision? The impression with the airport has long been that the ones wielding the power are amateurs and don't know what they are doing.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.


Anonymous said...

The Oneida County Executive nor the Legislature would invest one nickle of their personal money in this "airport" venture. It is only federal, state and local tax dollars that keep this fools errand going.But, evidently the taxpayer does not mind seeing their money fly out of their pockets.

Silence Dogood said...

These are the same folks who are looking for a chip plant...go figure

Keith said...

I agree that Mr. Gray was unusual in his openess and willingness to respond to questions. It has seemed in the last year that he was being shunted aside.

I also think we have lost a good man. Whatever the new direction is, I hope we find a destination to enter into the county GPS.

D Naegele said...

The first mistake was moving the airport their to begin with. Back in the early eighties the government made an attempt to have all of us government employees that flew for business reasons to fly out of Oneida County Airport. It turned out to be a poor decision even back then. The connections sucked, and it turned out to be more expensive and less efficient than shuttling us to Syracuse.

One has to wonder if the NEW direction will not simply be another pocket lining dream trip for those that will benefit from the ongoing federal money, while accomplishing NOTHING along the lines of developing a viable international airport at the site.

With Hancock Field only 40 miles up the road, it will take more than the ticket revenue generated by Rome Lab, and a few other small enterprises at the business park to entice a major airline to fly in and out of there.

If they want to hire someone that might make it a successful venture, maybe they should turn it over to OIN and let them lure charter flights in and out, filled to capacity with gamblers that would pour some money into the local economy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it would make more sense and be far cheaper to create an effective shuttle system to Syracuse. We do not need nor can we afford an "international airport".

Anonymous said...

A study is being done to see if Griffiss can support commercial flights. The results are likely predetermined in the same way as the Hotel Utica study was. We all know how well that is going.

Is this where were headed? Is this the vision? If you don't know anything about Stewart Airport, which is located downstate, Google it.

Stewart Airport losses year by year

2008: $3.47 million

2009: $4.99 million

2010: $4.13 million

2011: $7.23 million (estimated)

2012: $12.84 million (projected)

D Naegele said...

There used to be a couple of limo services that provided service to the airport on a regular basis. Both to the Oneida County Airport and to Syracuse. Frank Brognano's limo was one of them. I don't know if they still exist or offer the service any more. I remember them loading in front of the Hotel Utica years ago.

I imagine that Centro has all the rights necessary to provide the service and it would be quite a process to get the permits and approval for anyone else to start such a service. Birnie Bus might stand as good a chance as anyone else of getting through the red tape, if there is a profitable future in such a venture.

Vernon Gray said...

The deficit at Griffiss was reduced from $1.8 million in 2008 to $843,000 in 2010. A further reduction of approx. $400,000 could be achieved by the conversion from steam to natural gas for heating.

The Air Development Study outcome is not predetermined. The feasibility of a route between Rome and Dayton, OH, and/or a route between Rome and NYC, and/or seasonal flights to vacation destinations is to be authoritatively determined. Prior to Xmas I had begun negotiations with Allegiant for two flights per week to Orlando-Sanford and Tampa.

Thanks for the compliments.

Anonymous said...

What a silly comment. To suppose that the entire effort of millions of taxpayers dollare used to "move" an airport and the millions spend since can be abated by a few flights, even if they were to happen, is near laughable.I would love to see a cost/benefit review of the entire Griffiss venture. Too bad no one can get an accounting.

Anonymous said...

As a recent Commissioner, will Mr. Gray provide the numbers; how much in federal,state and local tax dollars have been spent on the "airport", including moving costs?

Vernon Gray said...

Anonymous: You appear to have a bad habit of putting words into other's mouths. No one has said that passenger flights would abate the tens of millions of dollars spent on Capital projects at the airport. At best the revenue from such flights will help further reduce the Operating budget deficit. The financial goal is to make the airport financially self-sufficient without any taxpayer subsidy.

You are also wrong that "no one can get an accounting." All of the financial information about the airport is available from the Oneida County Comptroller. You need only submit a request or FOIL.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gray. How can one suggest a future hope of self sufficiency without presenting the history of cost? How could the commissioner not have those costs at hand? Do you not know what has been invested by the taxpayer at the "airport"? Are you suggesting that the airport remain open no matter what the subsidy or is there a pull the plug point? Surely someone who was paid well to oversee an airport with little to no flights had a handle on the public investment vs. the public return. I understand that there is an OD special soon to be published on the airport and other asects of the Griffiss redevelopment. It would be nice if it shed some light on "the money." Who knows, the Comptroller may be highlighted.

Anonymous said...

A point not made is whether federal and state monies are calculated into the mix when the former commissioner talks about taxpayer subsidies? Or, is he only talking about county taxpayer subsidy? It is hard to grasp how two international airports can exist less than 50 miles apart ion a relatively tiny market area. Are a few flights from here to anywhere worth the expense? I doubt that could be answered in the affirmative.

Vernon Gray said...

For the 3 years I was in charge of the airport I know where every dollar has been spent. The Comptroller is the better source for financial info on what came before me. The Capital Budget is a mixture of federal, state and county funds. The $80 million investment in the airport's infrastructure has been about $60 million federal/state and $20 million County. The Operating Budget is entirely funded by the County. The County cannot choose to not operate the airport, nor could it choose to close it. It has signed agreements with the federal government to indefinitely operate a public use airport. To host two flights per week by Allegiant to Florida destinations would not cost the County any extra expense.

Anonymous said...

Picente keeps saying that "he wants to go in a different direction" when asked why Gray was let go. What direction is he talking about? No one seems to know except Mr. Picente. I'm not sure he knows either as he keeps repeating the same statement. Perhaps Picente could be more specific so taxpayers won't have to wonder just what the County & Picente in particular are up to. The secrecy as to pertains to the the lease agreements between EDGE, GLDC, the county IDC & whoever else is involved in the paper shuffling between these entities is troubling to say the least. Follow the money? No one can because these people think that they are above the law. These people make ACORN look damn good in my opinion.