Delahanty recapped their talk in a longish letter to Flood on Tuesday, reproduced in full below. (As of press time, he had not received any acknowledgment or reply.) Delahanty’s account reveals a number of statements which raise eyebrows—either due to what Flood said, or what he claimed not to know. According to the letter, the County’s top development official believes that:
- “Restaurants in Hudson and Chatham ... don’t provide good jobs except for the owners”;
- The local paper does “not always present issues correctly”;
- Big power lines like the one proposed across Ghent and Stockport do “not have a negative impact on property values.”
Delahanty’s letter notes that Flood sounded unsure or unconcerned about the following topics related to the County-owned airport;
- What the financials are for the airport and its operator;
- How many flights come in and out of the airport, what kind of planes are involved, and in what manner;
- Whether Meadowgreens owner Carmine Nero would litigate to contest the use of eminent domain to seize his land;
- What planes and funding would be lost, if any, if the land were not seized; and
- Where funding for this legal effort and purchase would come from if Nero prevails in court, obtaining a higher price.
Another surprising note from the letter: While shepherding the economic and planning efforts of of Columbia County, Flood does not actually live within the County itself.
While thanking Flood for his time, Delahanty concludes that the County development office needs to provide more public information, make more prudent use of tax dollars, consider citizen concerns seriously, and take an approach which is more “innovative, outside the box and constructive.” The full text of his letter follows.
Commissioner Kenneth Flood
Columbia County Planning/Economic Development
401 State Street
Hudson, NY 12534
August 20, 2013
I wish to thank you for taking the time out of your day to speak to me on Wednesday the 14th of August. I wish to recap our comments, especially on the Columbia County Airport and to build upon them and hope that what we all want in Columbia County can be accomplished.
As mentioned, I first bought property in Austerlitz in 1978, somewhat based upon research I did of an ancestor during the Revolutionary War and whose records indicate he was in Claverack as well as the Mohawk Valley.
This county with its natural and historical beauty and growing economic vitality is thus important to me.
We discussed a number of issues from the strength and vitality of so-called 2nd home owners who I believe are probably the biggest economic boom this county has experienced in the last 100 years, to the excess number of boards, county and town departments and the limited population and thus tax base.
We also discussed that over the last 10 to 20 years the county and towns have spent millions on the purchase of closed schools, numerous Public Works buildings, tax abatements for firms that ultimately left and some who remain, to the moving of dirt around the Industrial Park. All this money comes from a limited population that is being strained each year.
We discussed the increase of restaurants in Hudson and Chatham and you mentioned “they don't provide good jobs except for the owners.” I disagreed, as they not only provide good work for many people either as their principal or second job, but also the owners have bought and renovated buildings. These purchases continue to provide work for numerous trades, increasing the buying locally from farmers, improving the tax base and bringing customers that may stay, use the B&Bs and buy product in the retail stores. It appears you dismiss the positive impact which was also highlighted in August 14th article in the Food Section of the New York Times.
I was also dismayed that you thought our local paper did not always present issues correctly, if so, then you need to better communicate your Department’ s views and activity.
But the main point of my call was and is the ill-conceived purchase of land from a viable 9-hole golf course for the expansion of the Columbia County Airport. You mentioned that Mr. Nero had turned the offer down and that the county would only be spending $25K on legal fees. But when asked if you thought he would litigate you did not have an opinion.
I am saddened that as the Economic Development Officer of the County that you cannot offer an informed opinion to the Supervisors and the public of what possible outcomes may happen. Given Mr. Nero's stated issues and positions, I can see him winning a substantial price increase to purchase the land, as he will need to spend substantial money renovating a viable Golf Course. Where the money will come from when he wins, seemed not to be an issue with you.
We discussed the number of flights in and out of the airport and you did not seem to have that information and when pressed you said the numbers of recorded flights could be found on the Internet. When discussing what planes use the airport and how, you did not seem to have that information. You did not know of the airport in Egremont, MA, that gives flying lessons and uses Columbia as a practice “touch and go,” because the Town of Egremont does allow such use. You thought that was great as someone might buy a house in Columbia County. I hope you mentioned that in jest.
I was also surprised that you did not know the financials of the airport and its operator. If we are not the stewards of responsible economic development and spending, who is? Before we effectively give money to a business we should know the financials. No bank would give money without a full accounting of the Income, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow of the business that was going to most benefit from a loan or grant.
You indicated that Richmor may leave and the possible loss of 35 jobs because it might not be profitable for them to remain if the airport was not expanded. You mentioned Richmor recently bought a jet and is keeping it in the Schenectady area. But you could not tell me the type, what it may have cost and why it is in Schenectady, but you think keeping it there is a reason to spend a million plus dollars because Richmor may leave. Let me indicate to you, that a business would not remain in Columbia County if it was not making money. In fact you have mentioned it brings $20M of economic vitality to the county, so I assume they make money as it is.
You mentioned that the added land was needed for safety, but it is currently operating safely and you could not explain which planes and money would be lost to the County if the airport was not expanded. You mentioned one reason for the land was to keep deer out of the facility, I may suggest Richmor close the 9H entrance for example.
We also discussed why the County did not assess each landing some dollar amount; you thought it was an interesting point. At least the County could see a tangible benefit.
I can go on and on in reference to our call, but my perception is a perceived lack of knowledge that your office seems to have of the impact of the expansion of the Airport. I hope my perception is incorrect.
But we also discussed the subject of the possible NYSEG power lines will have on Ghent. I was interested in the fact that you stated you live near power lines, although not in the County and we all need power, implying it will not have a negative impact on property values, etc. But in fact, as you mentioned, you bought your home after the lines were installed, thus not negatively impacting the value of your home. You also mentioned that internet lines are visible – I hope again that is in jest, as cable lines do not run on high tension lines.
We need to have thinking that is innovative, outside the box and constructive. I don’t get the sense that is the vision of the Economic Development office.
I request you and your office provide information publicly of all the questions that have been asked on the Airport issues and on other ongoing business so the public can be informed. I suggest that the Development office more actively continue to help other smaller businesses and push the providers of the Internet to expand access throughout the county. The money whether from the Federal Government or taxpayers of Columbia County needs to be used prudently.
We are here for future generations and not to bankrupt current taxpayers with added burdens. I trust you will further consider the negative impact this land purchase will have both locally and regionally.
From your office’s web site: “Since 1967 Richmor Aviation, Inc. has operated out of the Columbia County Airport. Business in the country has been good for us. Low overhead compared to our competitors in New York City. Great resource for our work force. Excellent place to reside and raise a family.”