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Warren County Airport runway extension survives another challenge

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Board work

Supervisors talk and listen during a recent meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors. The board should not give up on requiring performance reviews for county department heads.

QUEENSBURY — Opponents of a plan to extend the main runway at Warren County Airport tried again to put a halt to the controversial proposal Wednesday night, gaining more votes for their cause but still coming up short during a surprise vote by the county Board of Supervisors.

The $8 million, 1,000-foot extension has been the source of consternation for a group of citizens for years, but efforts to convince the county board to back off on it have gone for naught during a number of re-votes.

On Wednesday night, as the board held a special night meeting, about a dozen members of the public spoke out against continuing to pursue a project that many believe is unnecessary. That prompted Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer to propose a resolution to “cease processing the application” with the Federal Aviation Administration to pursue the project.

The proposal, which is still in the planning stages, fell by a weighted vote of 510-356. Eleven voted against it, six for it (corrected), one abstained and two supervisors were absent from the meeting. The vote was closer than the 18-2 tally the last time a supervisor proposed halting the 13-year-old project.

The extension was part of a long-completed master plan for the runway, and will be paid for with 90 percent FAA funds, 5 percent state money and a 5 percent county share.

Wednesday’s vote came after more than an hour of discussion both pro and con, pilots and supervisors who think it is a good idea and area residents and supervisors who think it is a waste of taxpayer money.

It began when there was talk about recent emails between supervisors about the project, which prompted Queensbury Supervisor Ron Montesi — who supports the extension — to quip that supervisors who keep trying to derail the project “need to get a hobby” and “have too much free time on your hands.”

Braymer, a lawyer who is new to the board this year, said her research led her to believe the extension is not needed.

Numerous residents, many of whom have spoken out against the project at other public meetings, reiterated their opposition, saying large planes can land on the runway without issue, the extension will hurt a rare marl fen wetland and the cost-benefit analysis to add on to the landing strip was off.

Dr. Paul Aalagna, who lives near the airport, raised new concerns about jet fuel contamination of neighborhoods by planes flying over, which he said could be an issue with increased jet traffic.

“There is not an operational need to add a thousand feet to the runway,” said Gary Loughrey, a retired airline pilot from Glens Falls.

Queensbury Supervisor John Strough said the local share of the project, five percent of the tab, or about $400,000, equates to $6.12 per county resident, “the cost of a submarine sandwich.” He said there are a number of good safety and economic reasons to pursue the project.

Private pilot and Warrensburg councilman John Alexander said there has been a lot of “misinformation” from opponents who are trying to “spin political agendas.” The marl fen “is a breeding ground for our beloved mosquitoes,” he added.

“It’s a vital asset for our five-county area, a much more far-reaching facility than people believe,” Alexander said of the airport.

Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Dan Girard, chairman of the county board’s Facilities Committee, which is overseeing the project, said he began overseeing the project after it had been approved, but has come to believe the project is worthwhile.

“I’m convinced this is a good thing for the county,” Girard said.

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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