Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lost: Warren County airport easement map, if found please bring to county officials - Queensbury, New York

QUEENSBURY, NEW YORK —  Warren County officials are making a last-ditch effort to find a long-lost property map that could be worth nearly $1 million.

The map purportedly shows avigation easements on property around Warren County airport that were purchased when the airport was built in the early 1940s.

It could possibly save the county from having to pay $930,000 for new easements and property purchases that the Federal Aviation Administration has asked requested to remove obstructions from the flight path for the airport’s shorter runway.

Unfortunately, the map has been lost dating back to at least 2005, to the point that the county Board of Supervisors earlier this year agreed to buy new easements and purchase some of the property that county leaders know they already have some easements on.

That is not sitting well with Upstate New York Taxpayers Advocates, whose members have made an issue of the decision to spend money rather than make another effort to find the map or pursue litigation that could settle the easement issue and potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor-elect Doug Beaty, a UNYTA member, asked the county Board of Supervisors on Friday to hold off on the easement and property purchase process to make another effort to find the map, asking that county staffers “turn over every rock.” Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mark Westcott said he has formally asked the FAA to put a hold on the easements/purchase.

County Attorney Martin Auffredou said his office and the airport manager, Ross Dubarry, have renewed the effort in recent days to see if the map can be located. The effort comes after The Post-Star reported on the issue last week.

“I hope we find something but I’ll be candid with you, I don’t think we will,” Auffredou said.

He said there was no need to put the purchases on hold, because nothing was expected to occur with them in the next few weeks. The issue will be discussed at a Facilities Committee meeting in late January, he said.

Auffredou said the county attorney’s office determined it didn’t have grounds for legal action to try to iron out the issue without the map. And the map may not be detailed enough to settle the easement issue anyway, he said.

Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Dan Girard, chairman of the county board’s Facilities Committee, which oversees the airport, pointed out that the county’s share of the easement/land purchase tab is about $50,000, 5 percent of the cost. The FAA takes care of the rest, through funds generated by aviation user fees.

He said the $50,000 pricetag of local taxpayer money seemed worthwhile to avoid the unknown costs and possibility of success of litigation.

Travis Whitehead, a member of UNYTA who spoke at the meeting, said Girard’s comment “galls me.” He pointed out that the issue first surfaced at county board meetings in 2005, and at that point it was believed $50,000 worth of easements and no purchases would be necessary to satisfy the FAA obstruction requirements. It has come up several times over the years, as the price tag grew to $930,000.

Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe suggested county officials check the deeds for the properties in question to see if the easements are detailed there, but Auffredou said the deeds were checked and refer back to the map.