Big Sky Picks Watertown for Maintenance Facility

Jan. 25 -- Big Sky Airlines will announce the location of its Northeast maintenance facility today at the Watertown International Airport.

Although the 11 a.m. press conference's location suggests Jefferson County has won the base, county and airline officials declined to confirm that.

The county sent a three-man detail to the airline's Billings, Mont., headquarters Friday to present their proposal in person.

"Frankly, I think that made a huge difference in us being as successful as we think we are now," said County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III, who was part of the contingent.

"We felt strongly that delivering our proposal in person would show our commitment to this partnership, which will be important to the community and the future development at the airport," added Legislator Philip N. Reed, who joined Mr. Hagemann and James L. Lawrence, highway superintendent, on the pitch.

According to Mr. Hagemann, Big Sky officials told county leaders: "We are very impressed with your personal attention to detail and your willingness to come to Billings, Montana. Your time was not wasted."

Fred L. deLeeuw, Big Sky president, said county representatives "made a very good impression. It was a very good meeting." He declined further comment.

The county pitched a potential pool of applicants for the 20 to 25 mechanic and service technician jobs that will be required to adequately staff the new facility. It also provided details about its south hangar, approximately 10,000 square feet, that could fit two of Big Sky's 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D planes.

The county applied for $300,000 in state funds last month to complete renovations on that south hangar, which could include a new floor, new lighting and masonry, and adding heating equipment. It awaits the state's decision.

Mr. Hagemann said the facility could bring a $1 million payroll.

"It's a tremendous boost to the economy," he said.

If Watertown airport was awarded the base, Big Sky likely has rejected other offers, including those from Massena, Ogdensburg, Plattsburgh and Albany.

The town of Massena and the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority created a joint proposal to present to Big Sky last week.

St. Lawrence County Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, co-chairman of the St. Lawrence Valley Air Task Force, said Big Sky officials called him Wednesday to break the news. He declined further comment, saying he awaited a formal announcement.

Big Sky will provide federally subsidized air services for Massena, Ogdensburg and Watertown airports for at least the next two years. The air carrier will offer 18 weekly flights to Boston's Logan International Airport. Flights will start on April 8. Mr. deLeeuw has said previously that his company will begin accepting reservations in February.

Copyright (c) 2007, Watertown Daily Times.



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