Chautauqua County Doesn’t Need An Airport Upgrade

The federal government is unwilling to put any more money into the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown.

Why is New York state?

Federal officials recently declined to approve resumption of the county’s Essential Air Service subsidy because of concerns the airport isn’t viable commercially because of competition from Erie and Buffalo. In New York, lack of commercial air service is apparently a good opportunity to spend $902,000 in hanger and facility upgrades. If professionals aren’t sure the airport is viable, why are we spending almost a million dollars on renovations. Perhaps the money would be better spent thinking about the future of the property — converting hangars into an indoor sports training facility similar to the one that has opened in the former Allen Park Ice Rink.

The move is particularly galling given the alarm bells being rung from Albany over the state’s decreasing income tax receipts and revenue gaps. If the state is struggling to meet its revenue projections, shouldn’t it scrutinize the way dollars are spent? This is exactly the type of spending people have in mind when they’re talking about the ways New York state wastes money. Couldn’t $902,000 in upgrades to an airport that has no commercial airline activity have waited until the budget was in better balance? Is there some way to leverage that money with private investment if the only hangar users are those flying private planes? Does anybody ask these questions before the state writes checks?

We can think of dozens of better uses of $900,000 than on an airport with no commercial air carrier. The Allen Park Ice Rink — which could see at least as much use as the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown has seen in the past several years — could use an influx of grant funding. Think of all the people who could make use of the local CEO scholarship if it were to receive a sudden million dollar influx of cash. Think of the roads that could be fixed, the drug treatment programs that could be created or the police and fire equipment that could be purchased. Think of the good that could be done on Chautauqua Lake’s algal blooms and weed issues with $900,000.

Chautauqua County has a lot of needs. Capital upgrades to an airport with no commercial air service isn’t one of them.

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