Now that the Oneida County Board of Legislators has passed the plan to borrow $1.5 million to construct a U.S. Customs office at the airport, planes coming from other countries will be able to land there more conveniently. . . .Great! Another airport building taxpayers are forced to pay for! Another $1.5 million in debt! But wait . . . Didn't the last airport commissioner propose a pre-fab facility built to Customs' specs for only $800,000 in the 2012 budget? Why has the cost doubled? If there really is a need, why build more than the minimum? Who is making $$$ from the excess?
But it does not stop there . . .
The Griffiss office will have one officer at a cost of about $120,000 per year. The customs officer will not be a county employee. Instead, the county will pay the fee to the federal agency.Great again! We not only have a questionable real estate investment, but will also incur ongoing staffing costs. The article makes a point that two businesses, MidAir USA and Premier Aviation fly to/from Russia or Canada and that customs agents either have to come here from Syracuse to meet the planes or the planes have to go there to deal with them.
So why is that an issue for Oneida County taxpayers?
Can't the agents simply continue to come from Syracuse (32 miles away) as needed? Or can't the planes continue to stop there? MidAir and Premier had no problem locating facilities here without this service. Why is this an issue now? While this may make things convenient for these two companies, why should taxpayers foot the bill? The taxpayers already subsidize these companies in various ways but, unlike shareholders, get NO part of company profits. Why should taxpayers pay more?
And where is the evidence that this service is or will be needed in the foreseeable future? There was no demand for customs agents when the market was thriving and had regularly scheduled air flights. There has to be less of a demand now that our population and business base has shrunk. Now add the national economic malaise on top of our long-standing local malaise. One suspects that we'll build another Taj Mahal facility that will be mostly empty -- and have Customs Agent "Tatoo" sitting around most of the time waiting for "the plane, the plane."
I've given up trying to figure out the "plan" for the county airport because there is no "plan" -- at least nothing that is backed by solid market analysis and business data... Just the musings of a bunch of country bumpkins who make themselves feel smart and important simply because they can spend lots of our money. Here's a series I did in August, 2008: "How Bad Can It Get?" "How Bad Can it Get 2?" "How Bad Can it Get 3?" "How Bad Can it Get 4?""How Bad Can it Get 5?""How Bad Can it Get 6?" --- Has anything really improved?
So how much is "a lot?" It depends. If it is the cost of this project: TOO MUCH! If it is the anticipated economic improvement from it: NOT MUCH!
As a percent of the value of our real estate, taxes in Oneida County are among the highest in the nation. Oneida County needs to spend less time catering to the needs of particular businesses or persons, and more time reducing the general level of taxation for everyone. Only then will we finally begin to see some real, sustainable economic development.