Russell O. Stark

Pair of airport upgrades may be on horizon, officials say

Published Sep 7, 2017 at 4:00pm

The county aviation commissioner hopes to land two Griffiss International Airport building upgrades at Griffiss International Airport in 2018.

In addition, Commissioner Russell O. Stark wants to continue ongoing infrastructure updates such as runway repairs, so long as there’s federal money that covers 90 percent of the cost. The remaining 10 percent is typically split between the county and state.

Stark and Deputy Aviation Commissioner Chad Lawrence on Wednesday reviewed their 2018 capital project requests with the Oneida County Capital Review Committee, which will make its recommendations to County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. next week. Picente will release his capital and operating budgets Oct. 5.

A substantial rehabilitation of the second floor of the center portion of Building 100, including the installation of an elevator that would serve all three floors and construction of offices, could cost as much as $4.5 million. The county would foot the entire cost.

Stark’s plan is driven by the interest of a potential tenant in leasing 10,000 square feet on the second floor, which has about 20,000 square feet. The possible tenant was identified as AX Enterprize, which already has a presence at Griffiss.

The building currently has no elevator, which means it does not comply with federal accessibility requirements. If an elevator is installed, the facade covering the parking-lot side of the three-story center would be rebricked.

Additional renovations in the structure, whose center section is flanked by large hangars on the east and west sides, are planned in 2019 and 2020. The hangars, which are outfitted to house large aircraft overhaul and maintenance operations, are vacant at present. There’s office space on the first floor in the center core to support the hangars.

The second floor serves as a focal point for activities related to unmanned aerial systems, more commonly called drones. Stark says updates to the second and third floors would allow for further growth of this business at Griffiss.

One possibility is that Mohawk Valley Community College could locate its classrooms and labs used in its drone programs on the third floor after renovations.

Griffiss is one of seven sites in the country designated by the Federal Aviation Administration for unmanned aerial system tests. The FAA is tasked with safely integrating commercial drones into the U.S. airspace.

An earlier Building 100 project gutted and removed asbestos from the second and third floors, leaving them in a basically unfinished condition.

Stark is also seeking approval for a project to make over the interior of a nose dock hangar so it can accommodate MVCC’s aviation technician training program. It is currently located elsewhere at the airport. Plans include the construction of classrooms, offices and student work areas

The estimated cost is $2.7 million. However, because MVCC would be the tenant, there’s a possibility that state aid could cover about 50 percent of the expense. The costs of community college capital projects are generally split 50-50 between New York state and the school’s sponsor. Oneida County is MVCC’s sponsor.

The current occupant of what’s known as nose dock 782, the Mercy Flight Central air ambulance service, would move into the building vacated by the college’s aviation training program after the nose dock renovations.

More airport takeoffs

On Wednesday, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, and Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi, D-119, Utica, announced Oneida County is getting $450,000 from the state to further improve the airport so it can continue to foster economic growth in the region

Also, the airport recently received a grant offer from the FFA for the design of runway repairs. The $332,550 award is for the first phase of anticipated fixes to the runway that handles all of the airport’s flights.

Additionally, Tenney secured a $82,200 grant to assist in efforts to remove obstructions near the runway.

Meanwhile, the Aviation Department officials’ appearance before the Capital Projects Committee Wednesday came as the final details are being finished on a new building to house the airport’s snow removal equipment. Stark hopes a certificate of occupancy can be issued by the city soon.