By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — A major piece of federal funding for an expansion of Plattsburgh International Airport has been approved.
Three grants totaling $6,554,491 have been awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration. The money will go toward finishing the design phase of the terminal expansion, for a water-and-sewer project to serve the larger facility and for runway rehab.
“This is great news for us and what we were expecting,” said Clinton County Legislature Chairman Jimmy Langley (R-Area 7, Peru).
“This puts us on the road to the complete build-out of the terminal expansion.”
The county agreed last year to undertake a major expansion of the terminal in order to accommodate the large volume of travelers who have used the airport since it opened in 2007.
The $40 million to $50 million expansion will include room for six more jetways and much larger counter and baggage-claim space.
Of the $6.5 million allocated Tuesday, about $3 million will go toward the design phase, about $3.4 million for the water-and-sewer component and about $151,200 for filling in cracks on the taxiway and runway.
Langley said the fact that the FAA is funding these parts of the expansion bodes well for future money for the project.
“They wouldn’t fund this part of it if they weren’t going to fund the rest, so this is great for us, and the timing couldn’t be better.”
Construction on the terminal expansion is scheduled to begin next spring.
FAA A BLESSING
The airport was constructed with about $40 million from the FAA’s Military Airport Program, which was designed to help communities that lost military installations. Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed in 1995.
The funding for the terminal expansion is coming from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program.
Langley said the airport’s success since it opened was a big reason the FAA chose to fund the expansion.
“We’ve been very consistent since 2007, and we have had other opportunities present themselves at the airport and have done a good job,” Langley said.
Legislator Robert Heins (R-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh), who chairs the county’s Airport Committee, said the FAA has been a blessing to the airport.
“They have helped us above and beyond, and we have succeeded because of them,” he said.
“We couldn’t do any of this without their help.”
U..S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand both said the airport improvements will boost the region.
“This Federal Aviation Administration grant is great news and will ensure that Plattsburgh International Airport continues to effectively serve residents, businesses and visitors to the Plattsburgh and Montreal region, all while boosting the area’s economy,” Schumer said.
Gillibrand said the grant money is a tremendous investment in the North Country.
“Expanding and upgrading infrastructure of the airport can help keep more travelers and businesses on the move in Plattsburgh, improve safety and help create better access to the North Country to strengthen the local economy,” she said.
BORDER PATROL LEASE
In another airport issue, Congressman Bill Owens said he would like to see U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol continue its presence at Plattsburgh International. It has occupied hangar space on the flight line since 2004, and the lease is set to expire in November.
Owens said the Border Patrol wants to stay at the airport.
“CBP’s presence along the northern border has obvious local and national security implications, and their expanding operation has benefited growth at the airport, as well as local job creation,” he said in a release on Tuesday.
Langley said the county is more than willing to reach a deal with the agency to keep it here.
“We are happy to work with them, and whatever they need, I am sure we can work something out,” he said.
LAURENTIAN STILL PURSUED
County Administrator Michael Zurlo said the money for the terminal expansion will help the county in many ways.
“These grant awards will benefit both the commercial as well as the industrial side of the airport and will benefit the traveling public and allow us to improve our operations,” he said.
County officials are still hoping that Laurentian Aerospace will finally pull the trigger on a $175 million project it proposed for the airport to retrofit large jet aircraft.
The project, which could eventually lead to about 700 jobs, has been in the works since 2006, but funding has never been secured.
Laurentian officials say they are continuing to pursue the project.
Email Joe LoTemplio: email@example.com