Fulton County Airport project gets federal boost

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Stan Hudy/The Leader-Herald The Fulton County Airport in Johnstown is shown in this file photo.

JOHNSTOWN — The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has approved a 100 percent reimbursement for Fulton County’s $1.25 million Main Apron Reconstruction Project.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors approved the Main Apron Reconstruction Project in April under the understanding that the project would be 90 percent reimbursed by the federal FAA with a 5% $62,500 matching contribution coming from both New York state and Fulton County.

Fulton County Planning Director Scott Henze on Monday told the Fulton County Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee that the FAA has determined the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act of 2021 can reimburse the full cost of rebuilding Fulton County Airport’s “main apron,” which is the parking area for airplanes before they get onto the runway and take flight.

Henze offered proposals for how the $62,500 in saved money could be spent on other capital project enhancements at the airport.

“There are two projects I would like to request the reallocation be put towards,” Henze said. “The first one is dedicated internet access at the airport. Really, the internet speed and access at the airport has been awful. It’s really kind of a dial-up service.”

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Henze told the committee that The 195 Factory, the company that has a lease with the county to act as the “fixed base operator” for the airport, has “expressed troubles with the internet up there.”

“The county, as well, operates an automated weather station, which also requires internet access, and then even more importantly with LifeNet [Air Methods Air Medical Transport Services] soon to be operating out of the airport — they need reliable internet access too,” Henze said.

In March, Henze announced that LifeNet NY, which operates 11 air medical transport bases throughout New York state, would be signing a 10-year lease for a regional maintenance hanger/helipad at the airport to be built by a company called N Number Holdings.

LifeNet’s staff at the Fulton County Airport is set to be two to three full-time mechanics during normal business hours; and three air medical transport staff to include a pilot, nurse and medic 24-hours-a-day, 365 days a year. LifeNet is expected to consume 20,000 gallons per year of Jet A fuel from the airport’s operator The 195 Factory, which suspended its sale of that kind of fuel back in 2013, but will bring it back online to accommodate LifeNet.

Henze said Fulton County needs to improve its internet service at the airport to accommodate the new tenant.

“When LifeNet was first in discussions with me about coming to the airport I knew this was going to be an issue,” he said.

Henze said there had been an earlier plan for a new internet connection to be built by the Johnstown Water Board on one of its water towers that could have been used to extend internet service to the airport, but ultimately the Johnstown Water Board chose to go with a remote link internet connection instead.

Henze said it would cost Fulton County $8,800 to pay Frontier Communications to build a new 100 megabyte Dedicated Internet Access connection from Route 67 to the airport, and then $480 per month to maintain the connection. He said the internet bill would be split between N Number Holdings, The 195 Factory, and Fulton County.

“That’s pretty good, so I’m requesting a portion of those $62,500 be reappropriated for the county to step in and make sure that this happens,” he told the Public Works Committee.

“And we’re right to use [the federal reimbursement] funds for that, without an issue?” Committee Chairman Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan asked.

“Yep, we can use these funds, and they are budgeted funds already, as you know, and it will not be required to have any impact on the capital project planning process,” Henze said.

Fagan inquired about the internet speed and Henze said it would be fast.

After Henze’s presentation, the chairman of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors John “Jack” Callery asked whether the internet connection would really be worth it.

“How many people were actually using it? Are they going to get their money’s worth? Because you said it’s going to cost the county $480,” Callery said.

“That’s going to be split three ways, right?” Fagan interjected.

“Yeah,” Henze said. “So the $480 per month, the county will have the contract with Frontier, but [Fulton County Information Technology Director] Perry Lovell will charge the [The 195 Factory] and N Number Holdings … so it will be split two and three.”

“So, what’s the county paying for? We don’t want anybody coming in there and using it,” Callery said.

Fagan and Henze reiterated that the county’s automated weather station would use the connection.

“OK,” Callery said.

Henze said he would also like to request the committee approve a spending reallocation resolution for at least a portion of the remaining $53,700, so it could be spent on repairing and repaving the existing land vehicle parking lot behind the county airport hanger operated by The 195 Factory, and a secondary unpaved parking lot, as well a paved access drive from the main parking lot to the Main Apron area.

Mark Yost, the Fulton County Superintendent of Highways and Facilities, said the parking lot repaving can’t be included into the Main Apron reconstruction.

“We have Callanan [Industries] out there reconstructing the [Main] Apron, but they won’t let us add this to that airport contract,” Yost said.

“They’re right out there paving, and they can’t do the same for this?” Callery asked.

“Well [Henze] is going to get a price from them, and more than likely, hopefully, they’ll do it, because they’re right there,” Yost said.

“But not as part of the Apron project …,” Fagan interjected.

Callery said he would hope it would be cheaper to hire Callanan to do the repaving since the company was already doing the much larger repaving job of the Main Apron, but then Henze quickly cautioned that he would likely still be required to solicit three price quote bids for the land vehicle parking lot repaving and Fagan agreed.

“Well see what comes, throw it out for bid,” Fagan said.

The committee voted unanimously to approve Henze’s requests for the new internet connection and the land vehicle parking lot repaving project and to send resolutions forward to the full board for consideration at its next meeting.

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By Paul Wager