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Fact Finder : Pricey Runway

WARREN COUNTY -- A medium-sized airport in the North Country has big plans at your expense!  Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport wants to make itself more marketable and it believes an $8 million, taxpayer-funded runway expansion is the ticket.  But, not everyone is on board.

Drive by the Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport, and you'll likely see something take off.  A plane in November, or even a hot air balloon in September.  But some worry costs are also soaring at the airport.  Supporters believe an $8 million runway expansion project will lead to growth.

"You want new chip fab companies to look?  The executives are going to look -- is there an up-to-date airport there?" said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

But Travis Whitehead of Queensbury said, "to date we haven't heard what the benefits are."

Whitehead is part of a group called the Upstate New York Taxpayer Advocates.  It takes issue with the plan that relies mostly on federal money to attract new business.

Warren County Supervisor-at-Large Mark Westcott leads the Upstate New York Taxpayer Advocates.  He doesn't think the expansion is necessary.  FAA statistics show 31,000 flights passed through Floyd Bennett Memorial last year.  That's less than a quarter of the air traffic at Albany International.

"When they find the opportunity and a willing participant to go ahead and make an airport 'better,' they offer all kinds of monies," Whitehead said.

Funding for the $8 million project comes from the US Airport Improvement Program.  The group "Friends of the Warren County Airport" estimates a longer runway, which could accommodate bigger jets, could bring $1 million a year in benefits.  It argues the extension will not waste taxpayer dollars since funds should come from taxes on fuel and passenger tickets.  Senator Schumer agrees.  He told us the airport can be an economic engine charging growth in the nanotechnology field.

As for the grant, Schumer said, "lots of people apply, not everybody gets these dollars.  The airport got it because a: Their plans were good, b: It needed updating, c: Because of the nexus with jobs was so strong in the northern part of the Capital Region."

"Any project should be based on its merits, not its funding source," Westcott said.

The Warren County Department of Public Works manages the airport.  The superintendent told us a longer runway is safer for pilotsHe says the airport does lose out on some revenue because some planes can't land there and the runway investment would serve the airport for decades to come.