More than a year after aircraft maintenance and overhaul company Premiere Aviation left a former Air Force hangar at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, Oneida County is near what may be a long-term fix for high utility costs blamed for making the vast building a proverbial white elephant.
The county Board of Legislators approved on Wednesday a plan for retrofitting the 400,000-square-foot Building 101 and neighboring Building 100 with modern heat and related equipment.
The package includes an energy-performance contract with C&S Companies, a Syracuse company that conducts energy audits and efficiency upgrades — one client is the Rome City School District for work at Rome Free Academy. C&S is to replace the heating system that uses heat produced at a woodchip-fueled central heating plant left over from the days as an Air Force base since its closure in 1995 with modern radiant heat and sophisticated environmental controls.
Two related board resolutions authorize entering financing arrangements to pay for it with ROC Leasing and First Security Finance Inc. There will be one year of construction then the county will spend about $15.5 million spread over 15 years, while C&S will guarantee utility savings roughly equal to that amount -- which is about what the county spends on building 101 a year now.
The high utility costs have been blamed for preventing the county from finding and keeping tenants in the vast hangars of the twin buildings, the largest on the former base. Last summer, Premiere Aviation left, taking with it 150 jobs. Empire Aero had done similar work but left in 2010. The aircraft maintenance and overhaul business had appeared promising for Oneida County, and Mohawk Valley Community College began a program in the field, which continues despite losing those companies.
Some lawmakers had expressed concern that the lease-purchase agreement would not be as cost-effective as traditional bonding. But the arrangement saves the county costs of bond counsel and comes with the cost-saving guarantee.
“Everything is good about it, the structure of the deal, the economics and efficiencies of it, all our questions i think were answered the other night,” legislator Chad Davis, D-Dist. 14 of Kirkland and New Hartford commented during the meeting earlier Wednesday of the board’s Ways and Means Committee, alluding to a meeting of the board’s Airport Committee Monday.