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Inside the decision: Allegany County won’t be funding the Wellsville Airport in 2022

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By Andrew Harris

Last week District 4 legislator Steven Havey asked the Ways and Means committee to begin discussion about continued funding for the Wellsville Municipal Airport. His fellow District 4 legislator, pilot, and longtime manager of the airport, Gary Barnes, had just given the committee a presentation on the airport and emphasized the importance of county financial support. Havey’s request did not receive the necessary second from another committee member needed to begin that discussion. Without saying a word, county leaders told Havey, Barnes, Wellsville Mayor Randy Shayler, and Wellsville Town Supervisor Shad Alsworth: No.

Below is the meeting minutes which provide a look into Barnes’ presentation and some of the reaction from other legislators and a county attorney:

Legislator Gary Barnes stated that three years ago, the Wellsville Airport asked the County for help with funding the airport. Mr. Barnes explained that in 2019 and 2020, the County granted a total of $100,000 to the Wellsville Airport, and due to COVID-19 the County did not fund them in 2021. Mr. Barnes stated that the airport did receive some extra State and Federal funding for 2021. Mr. Barnes stated that in September 2021 the Town of Wellsville sent another request for funding in the amount of $50,000 for 2022.

Mr. Barnes gave a PowerPoint presentation with photos of various buildings, improvements, and aircraft that benefit from the Wellsville Airport. Mr. Barnes stated that he ran the Wellsville Airport for 46 years and during that time the County built a road in the early eighties from Bolivar Road up to the airport. Mr. Barnes explained that year after year the Town of Wellsville struggles to meet the requirements needed to move the airport forward. Mr. Barnes stated that he felt because the airport serves most of the County with places like Houghton College, Alfred State, and Alfred University, as well as several area corporations getting several flights in and out each year. Mr. Barnes stated that Saputo, a company based in Canada, has a $45 million jet that uses the Wellsville Airport on a regular basis. Mr. Barnes stated that the Wellsville Airport has been able to serve these colleges and corporations very well only because they continue to make improvements.

Mr. Barnes referred to several PowerPoint slides depicting the history of the Wellsville Airport. Mr. Barnes explained that the FAA provided the airport with a $960,000 grant to purchase four hangers near the airport. Mr. Barnes explained that their hope is to utilize two of the hangers to develop an aircraft maintenance training facility with Alfred State. Mr. Barnes stated that it will cost approximately two to three times the FAA grant to upgrade these hangers, that there will be some State and Federal funding to do that, but there will be other areas the airport will need to fund themselves.

Mr. Barnes stated that Allegany County does benefit from the Wellsville Airport, and Cattaraugus County is funding the Olean Airport because they saw the benefits. Mr. Barnes explained that the Town of Wellsville has to do all of the funding for the Wellsville Airport, and it has been tough. Mr. Barnes stated that a $50,000 request is minimal and that the County should be able to afford this on an annual basis. Committee Chairman Brooke Harris stated that what they are looking at is a letter from Wellsville Municipal Airport Manager Willis Shutt, and a request from Wellsville Town Supervisor Shad Alsworth and Village of Wellsville Mayor Randy Shayler for funding from the County of $50,000 annually, and asked if Mr. Barnes if that is his request as well. Mr. Barnes stated that he is only presenting the request as it is. Committee Chairman Harris stated that Legislator Havey had forwarded to the Ways and Means Committee today, a 2019 letter from Chairman of the Board for OTIS Eastern Services, LLC Charlie Joyce that detailed his support of the concept of the County funding the airport, and that a copy will be on file in the Office of the Clerk of the Board. Committee Chairman Harris asked the County Attorney if it is within their ability to approve this funding for more than one year. County Attorney Allison Carrow stated that the approval will be for only one year because that is what the request from the Town of Wellsville specified.

A motion to approve the request was made by Legislator Havey, but no second was received, and the request was not carried.

Read Havey’s reaction in our previous reporting on this local news.

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