March 03--The debate over escalating costs to operate Warren County airport took an ugly turn Thursday when one county supervisor tore into a colleague as he discussed efforts to cut airport costs.
The confrontation occurred as Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mark Westcott discussed his thoughts on bringing pilots who use the airport into the discussion on how to rein in costs at the facility.
Westcott has continually questioned increased spending at the airport, which is significantly higher than many other municipal airports in upstate New York, as well as a proposal to lengthen the airport's main runway at an estimated $8 million.
Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Dan Girard, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors Facilities Committee that oversees the airport, cut off Westcott and would not allow him to continue the debate.
Girard said county leaders are reviewing the airport budget and cuts are being considered.
"Unbelievably, Mark, there are other people working on this other than yourself," Girard told Westcott.
He went on to accuse Westcott of starting a "filibuster" on the issue and accused him of "wasting a lot of people's time." He said Westcott was "wanting data to support your (proposed) $400,000 cut."
"You don't want me to comment more?" Westcott asked.
"I want to move on so we can comment on other things," Girard responded.
Most supervisors seemed stunned by the exchange and there was little comment afterward, though Glens Falls Ward Supervisor Bud Taylor seemed to take a shot at Westcott, saying "we're eating ourselves here" and adding "Election time is coming, I don't know if that's a reason" for the strife.
Westcott said his efforts had nothing to do with re-election, pointing out he began asking questions about the airport last year.
The committee also heard from Airport Manager Ross Dubarry about a response he prepared to a Post-Star article and editorial in the fall that questioned airport spending.
Dubarry tried to compare detailed spending breakdowns between airports in the region that have lower costs than Warren County, and distributed a spreadsheet with pie charts and dozens of figures
Dubarry couldn't get actual figures for many of the airports, so he substituted Warren County's costs in certain categories for those at other airports for which he couldn't get numbers, even though staffing numbers apparently differ significantly.
So for instance, he concluded Fulton County airport, which spent $12,000 in employee salaries in the unspecified year he surveyed, had the same overtime costs as Warren County ($47,000) despite the fact Warren County had $233,019 in salaries. He also included the same retirement and hospitalization costs as Warren County, despite the fact Fulton County and the other airports he included had much lower salary expenses.
Warren County Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson said the survey showed it is very difficult to compare airport operation costs because of the way budgets are structured.
Westcott, though, said the county survey reinforced to him Warren County's airport spending was higher than other counties, even with estimates for costs that weren't included.
"The real issue at this point is why are we spending over $1 million a year on this facility?" Westcott asked after the meeting. "Since the airport budget was brought up in the meeting today by Ross and Jeff Tennyson, I felt it was fair to ask this question. I was surprised at how vehement and negative the response was after doing so."
Copyright 2013 - The Post-Star, Glens Falls, N.Y.
Besides a contract and one year of service at the Stockton airport, Ornellas said he also wanted the Mexico-based airline to invest $500,000 after 30 days for security and lights in the parking lot.
The frustrated supervisors suggested they might delete Lee's position -- director of international economic and tourism development -- from the airport's budget later this year.
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