MASSENA - The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authoritys planned $10 million expansion of Ogdensburg International Airport has drawn surprise and frustration from Massenas mayor and town supervisor. Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he and Councilman Albert N. Nicola met two years ago with OBPA Executive Director Wade A. Davis and Chairman Samuel J. LaMacchia to discuss the difficulties associated with having two airports so close together.
We talked about things we could do to work cooperatively and focus our efforts on one airport to make one airport the best it could possibly be and allow it to become a regional airport, Mr. Gray said. We had been waiting to hear back from them, but we never did.
The OBPAs plans include a 1,200-foot runway extension which will require the relocation of Route 68 near its current end, terminal upgrades and installation of a municipal water line. Officials hope the expansion will attract a larger air carrier, estimating that the upgrades could attract 40,000 more passengers flying out of Ogdensburg each year.
Based on the news reports hes read thus far, Mr. Gray said he has many questions.
Do they have approval from the FAA to expand their runway and how are they going to pay for moving a state highway? he said.
In the meeting two years ago, Mr. Gray said, they also discussed the possibility of the OBPA managing Massenas airport or even creating an airport authority to run both airports.
We discussed the fact that other authorities are regional and their charge is the same, but they focus all of their efforts on Ogdensburg, Mr. Gray said. When is the last time the OBPA did a project outside of Ogdensburg?
Mayor James F. Hidy agreed.
I can appreciate the work the OBPA does for the immediate Ogdensburg area, he said. I think Massena and our quest for airport expansion is at a big disadvantage when both municipalities are trying to reach the same goal.
Mr. Gray said the only the OBPAs planned expansion would do is give St. Lawrence County two mediocre airports, noting the planned expansion in Ogdensburg would result in a runway the same size as Massenas current runway.
When its all said and done youll have an airport with severe limitations and youll have an airport that has exactly what Massena has, except ours has better instrumentation and a newer terminal, Mr. Gray said.
He said St. Lawrence Countys airport situation should be an issue tackled by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
I think this would be a perfect opportunity for the Regional Economic Development Council to sit down with us and help us come up with a way to do an objective study to determine which airport to focus on, Mr. Gray said.
Mr. Hidy said he feels like Ogdensburgs airport expansion is good news for Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence County, but he said it could be the end of the airport in Massena.
I dont see how the airport can continue losing money each year and compete against a larger airport thats only half an hour away, should their expansion plan, by design, attract a major carrier, he said, adding he would like to see the OBPA assist Massena in its efforts.
I think the OBPA is an authority that should serve not just Ogdensburg, because of its name, but all of St. Lawrence County, he said.
While the debate of which airport to expand may sound like a turf war, Mr. Gray said that is not the case.
Its not a matter of jealousy and its not a turf war, its about practicality. It makes no sense for them to continue on this path, he said. If an independent study finds that Ogdenbsurg is the better choice, I have no problem with that. Its a regional airport 35 miles away. That would be great.
Neither Mr. Davis nor Mr. LaMacchia could be reached for comment late Monday afternoon.