Around noon today, Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin sent the following letter and attached list of questions to the County’s economic development czar Kenneth Flood. Flood has been flogging a plan to use eminent domain to seize acreage abutting the County-run airport from owner Carmen Nero.
You have stated on numerous occasions over the past few years that if we do not expand the airport safety zone, the FAA will require us to shorten the runway, which could cause Richmor to cut back staff at the airport, and hamper future growth at the airport for the larger jets that require the longer runway.
The recent FAA letter responding to your question about what will happen if we do not expand the safety zone stated we might not qualify for future grant money, but did not say they would require us to shorten the runway.
Even after getting this letter, you maintain that if we do not expand the safety zone, the FAA will require us to shorten the runway, and that they may even require us to repay all or some of the grant money we have already been awarded. You cite "the regulations" to support your contentions.
There here have been a lot of questions raised over the years about the need to expand the airport safety zone. There have been a variety of FOIL requests, and a series of questions from both Supervisors and county residents related to past, current and future levels of activity at the airport by type of aircraft. To date, the County's responses to these questions have not been clear or complete.
The general impression many people have of the airport is that it is, has been and will continue to be a small, low level of activity facility that supports small, mostly propeller driven aircraft. The few larger jets that are based at the airport appear to be anomalies.
Before the County spends any more time or money on the eminent domain process, we need unambiguous answers to the questions that have been asked multiple times, but never adequately answered.
If we find that, in fact, the FAA will require us to shorten the runway, we can evaluate the impact of that action and make a decision about whether to proceed with the safety zone eminent domain action or not, based on the possible impact to Richmor and the County of a shorter runway. It is not clear that even if the FAA does require that we shorten the runway that we can justify moving ahead with the eminent domain process or any material investments of public funds from County, State or Federal sources.
If, however, the FAA tells us we will not be required to shorten the runway if we do not expand the safety zone, there seems to be little reason to continue with the eminent domain process.
Here are the questions I think we need answers to before we decided if we need to expand the safety zone and move ahead on eminent domain. Until we get coherent answers to these questions, we should table the eminent domain discussion and stop spending any tome and money on it.
For the FAA:
- If the County decides not to expand the safety zone, will they require us to shorten the runway?
- If yes, by how much, and by when?
- If yes, under what regulatory authority, exactly?
- If this is a safety issue, why have we not been required to shorten the runway already?
- If the runway is shortened by FAA mandate because the safety zone is not expanded, how much revenue and how many jobs, if any, will you lose by year over the next 10 years?
- If the safety zone is expanded, how much revenue and how many jobs will you be able to add by year over the next 10 years?
- How much in additional facility and equipment investments will you have to make to the facilities at the airport to achieve the revenue and job growth related to expanding the safety zone?
- How much annual revenue has Richmor generated, by type revenue outlined on page 5 of the lease agreement, since Richmor started leasing the airport from the county?
- How many people have been employed by Richmor, by year, at the County Airport since Richmor started leasing the airport from the County?
- How many total take offs and landings have there been at the airport, by year and by type of aircraft, since Richmor has been the base operator?
- How many take offs and landing per year, over the next 10 years, does Richmor project if the safety zone is expanded, or if it is not expanded?
For the Economic Development Commissioner and County Financial Managers:
- What has Richmor paid the County in rent, by year, since they started leasing the airport from the county?
- Have we been auditing Richmor revenues annually to verify that the rent we have been paid, which is based on a percentage certain Richmor revenues outlined on page 5 of the lease agreement, is correct?
- If we have been auditing Richmor revenues, how soon can you circulate these audits to members the BOS? If not, when will an audit of the Richmor lease payments since the beginning of the lease period be done and shared with the BOS?
- A recent Register Star article mentioned that over $6 million of public money has been invested in the airport and in airport consulting efforts over the years...is this correct?
- What was the actual total amount of specific investments made with public money from County, State and Federal sources since the inception of the airport, by project and date?
- How much in additional investments using public money from County, State and Federal sources are planned for the airport if the safety zone is expanded, for what, and when?
- How much in additional investments using public money from County, State and Federal sources are planned for the airport if the safety zone is not expanded?
For the County Attorney
- If we proceed with the eminent domain process and secure the expanded safety zone, can we increase the annual Richmor rent to include the amortization of the additional public money (County, State and Federal) spent to achieve this safety zone expansion, or must we rely only on increased revenues from Richmor's business to raise the County's rental income?
- Similarly, can the Richmor lease be modified to include the amortization of all past and/or future public monies spent on behalf improvements to the airport which benefit Richmor, or again, do we have to rely on increases in Richmor's future revenues to see higher rental payments?
For C & S Consultants about the 2011 Business Plan
- How did C&S determine that the airport generated an annual economic impact of 95 jobs, $7.6 million in income and $20.4 million in total economic impact, as stated on the cover of the 2011 Airport Business Plan?
- The 2011 Business Plan outlines $13 million of recommended capital improvements for the 2011 to 2015 period on page 18, while on pages 32 and 57 it recommends $8 million in capital improvements. Why the $5 million difference in capital projects?
- If the Plan had been implemented as recommended, projected activity at the airport was forecast to improve between 2011 and 2015 from 27 aircraft to 38 aircraft, and operations (takeoffs and landings) to increase from 19,200 to 21,900 (page 40). Based on 2013 data and conditions, are these projections still valid looking ahead five years, or should they be modified?
- Why and how is a 10% increase from 19,200 to 21,900 operations significant enough to justify an investment of between $8 million and $13 million in public funds?
- Operating income was projected to increase from a loss of $30,000 in 2011 to a profit of $85,000 in 2015 (page 57). Is $85,000 in operating income the best we can expect to do for an investment of between $8 million and $13 million in public funds?