Massena to spend nearly $200,000 in casino compact funds on highway equipment, rail spur, airport
Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 6:13 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- The Town Board decided on Wednesday to spend the majority of a $198,357.98 casino compact payment on highway department equipment, the Business Development Corporation’s rail spur project and Massena International Airport.

The payment is for the third quarter of 2013, July through September.

The biggest share, $80,000 will go to help the Highway Department purchase a new tandem dump/plow truck. It is one-third of the vehicle’s cost.

The town will use $50,000 of the compact monies to cover their share of the BDC’s industrial park rail spur project. The BDC is looking to connect Curran Renewable Energy to the existing CSX railroad and loop the infrastructure to other vacant industrial park properties.

BDC director Thomas Sullivan said late last year that the project carries a $942,000 price tag. Because of grants and other funding sources, the BDC is currently about $106,000 short.

Massena International Airport will get about $43,000. Town Supervisor Joe Gray said $20,000 will go to security upgrades that the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is pushing for. He said they have been checking airports throughout the country in the wake of the LAX shooting, including here. TSA officials told him that Massena needs to add more cameras and beef up other electronic security.

The town also wants to extend the 5,600-foot runway by 900 feet, and $23,357.98 will go to researching the project.

“It’s a matter of actually putting a more formal plan on paper and looking at what the cost will be,” Gray said. The ultimate goal is taking another step toward making Massena International the regional airport for St. Lawrence County.

The extra length would allow up to a 100-passenger airplane that could fly directly to places like New York City or Boston. Watertown currently uses a 50-passenger plane for its flights to Chicago.

“We think something like that makes a lot of sense,” he said.

The town will be rehabilitating the runway during the upcoming construction season, which is included in the 2014 budget.

Twenty thousand dollars will go toward the initial design and building an access road at the proposed commerce park on Horton Road. The town will be swapping a piece of property on state Route 131 with Alcoa for the Horton Road lot.

“We’re very close to getting [the transfer] done,” Gray said. “If that happens, we want to hit the ground running.”

He added that the town wants to build a new highway garage and it could be at the Horton Road property.

The remaining $5,000 is earmarked for a kiosk for the Riverquest project at Hawkins Point. Riverquest is a public-private partnership based out of Brockville. They want to build an aqua-terrarium there, and have points of interest along the St. Lawrence River between Sackets Harbor and Cornwall. Gray said they are interested because of the existing visitor center at Hawkins Point and its location along the river. Their website is 1000islandsriverquest.com.