Friday, November 23, 2012

Airport: How Much is "a Lot?"

Per the OD: U.S. Customs office at Griffiss 'will help a lot,' official says

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. 

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The entire venture of the "international airport" is a waste of taxpayers money. These guys and gals would not invest a dime of their own money but do not seem to mind speculating with millions of taxpayers dollars. It is a huge joke--- on us.

Vernon Gray said...

In my time as the commissioner of aviation I was not contacted by the Empire Aero Center, Premier or Midair regarding the issue of a so-called need for full-time Customs at the airport. They were entirely satisfied with the as-needed, on-call services from Syracuse. The issue was entirely generated and has continued to be pushed by Million Air. Yet, the OD article does not even mention the FBO.

I suspect that Picente is publicly using Premier and Midair as a smokescreen to justify the Customs facility and agent (1) because Million Air's need is entirely speculative; (2) so that Million Air will not catch any blame when this latest 'build it and they will come' promise becomes yet another expensive white elephant; and (3) so that Picente can hopefully avoid any political embarrassment. When the time comes, Premier and Midair will be thrown under the bus to protect Million Air and Picente.

Anonymous said...

$1.5 million to build an office? Is Picente joking or what? I find it hard to believe that there are no facilities at the former base than can be upgraded to be used as an office for a custom's agent.

The agent's salary at $120,000/yr. over the next 5 years alone is going to cost county taxpayer's $600,000, plus the $1.5 mil. plus interest for the "office". Does Picente read the papers? Perhaps not. Apparently he doesn't realize that taxpayer's are at the breaking point & are fed up with grandiose schemes such as this one which we as taxpayer's have to pay for.

Picente has the audacity to propose such wasteful spending as this boondogggle while at the same time pointing a finger at Albany over mandates. While that may be justified, Picente should get his own house in order instead of continually sticking it to taxpayer's with his never ending waste of our tax dollars.

Vernon Gray said...

Though it is only a 3,000 sq ft facility, due to Customs' design specifications, especially security, there are no existing buildings at the airport into which it could be added. The cost jumped from $800,000 to $1.5 million after C&S Engineers took charge of the project. C&S' normal fee is 15%.

Anonymous said...

As long as Picente {with the legistlature rubber stamping his every move} has free reign to waste taxpayer money on wasteful projects such as this one, this county will continue it's slide.

Picente should take a good luck at the economic circumstances that befall many county residents & then let him somehow justify borrowing $1.5 million dollars to build an office.

Picente is not only inept, he can't be trusted either & I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth.

Anonymous said...

It is rumored that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp is seriously considering Marcy for its proposed chip plant. The multibillion-dollar project would involve 3.2 million square feet of construction and employ at least 1,000 people. Two of the largest equipment suppliers for TSMC have operations at the University at Albany's world-renowned tech research hub, its College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

A customs office at Griffiss strongly enhances our chances for final site selection, which nobody can/will talk about right now, but looks very promising. TSMC will have an international airport located within ten miles of the plant. It doesn't get much better than that.

Look at the big picture folks .....

Anonymous said...

More contracts to give out, more jobs to control, what more is there needed to understand? Oh, all accomplished with our money, not the county executives.

Anonymous said...

If a customs office located in Rome as opposed to one at Syracuse is that important to a chip plant from Taiwan, would it not be better to wait until the chip plant commitment was a reality? Why commit to this major expenditure ahead of time? Will the borrowing legislation and all other steps be contingent upon the Taiwan deal? Would that not be the big picture way to do it or is the big picture to forever gamble with taxpayer money?

Anonymous said...

It is more likely that TSMC would utilize the Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) at Griffiss in order to be exempt from Customs duties and fees. To my understanding, Picente's Customs facility would not be necessary for TSMC.

Silence Dogood said...

Chip Plant????? I heard that song before Lets rewind and play it again.

Unknown said...

I would love to believe the theory about the chip plant but I think that logic may be a little flawed. I would seriously doubt that a 45-55 minute drive to the nearest international airport is a major linchpin in whether a chip plant locates in Marcy. The chip plant in Malta is only about 20 minutes closer to Albany airport than Griffiss is to Syracuse airport. The much more likely linchpins are the unresolved issues with the army corp and the lack of a major technical/engineering university in the immediate utica/Rome area.