By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- Part of the Town Council’s discussions for what to do with casino compact monies Wednesday centered on the possibility of using them to promote the airport, which would work toward an ultimate goal of it one day being self-sufficient.
“We need to set up a committee and get that airport running on its own,” Councilman Charles Raiti said. “It’s a concern I won’t be here to go forward with, but I think you need to do it.”
The magic number, according to Councilman John Macaulay, is 10,000 annual enplanements. Massena International is nowhere near that.
“Unless we get bigger than an eight-passenger plane from Cape Air or more flights … we’ll never generate the revenue,” Macaulay said.
“We can land a 46 or 48-passenger turbo jet on our runway as it is,” Councilman Albert Nicola said.
He feels the town should market the airport, especially in Canada. He noted that since Ogdensburg gets most of the air traffic from Ottawa and Montreal flights tend toward Plattsburgh, Massena should aim for the east Ontario/west Quebec market.
Macaulay said federal Essential Air Service grants, which fund a portion of the airport, could run dry sometime down the road.
“How long will they fund two airports 35 miles from each other?” he said. Ogdensburg International Airport also gets the money.
Town Supervisor Joseph Gray said he thinks the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority should step up and function as it was intended – as an aid to regional ports of air and sea, rather than just serving those in Ogdensburg.
“We let them off the hook all the time,” Gray said. “I understand their charter is to be a much more regional authority than they are. Is it possible they could manage our airport?”
He opined that this could be possible once those in charge of making those decisions “set aside provincial attitudes and turf wars.”
He pointed out that the OBPA was recently in Las Vegas soliciting customers heading east.
Another possibility to boost airport revenues, Gray said, would be to change Massena International’s zoning to industrial/agricultural and use the vast surrounding fields for businesses or an industrial park, as is commonly both locally and nationally.