Oneida County legislators are near a decision on a plan to modernize the heating system in the vast former hangars at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome in hopes of landing new rent-paying tenants.
On the Board of Legislators’ agenda for its July meeting Wednesday is a contract with C&S Companies of Syracuse for modernizing the heating system, including in building 101, a hangar that has housed three aircraft maintenance companies that later left amid concerns over high utilities costs. The board’s Aviation Committee endorsed the contract Monday after discussion of details of the financial arrangement.
C&S, which has conducted several similar energy upgrades for school districts and other public entities, proposes to replace the present system that uses steam from a woodchip-fueled central plant left from the Air Force days with radiant heat equipment using natural gas. Upgrades would also include efficient LED lights, motion sensors to save power in unused areas, and sophisticated control and monitoring software.
Before legislators is a 15-year equipment lease purchase agreement for $15.5 million, along with a related escrow agreement.
For the two main buildings, 100 and 101, C&S has estimated annual heating cost savings of more than $1 million a year.
In addition, with lowered utility costs, prospective tenants paying several hundred thousand dollars a year in rent can be landed, Aviation Commissioner Chad Lawrence told the board Aviation Committee Monday.
Some legislators balked at the amount of the contract, but Lawrence told them that if nothing is done, the county, which runs much of the former base as a general-aviation airport, would still face high heating costs. High costs have made the spaces difficult to lease, he added.
Occupants of building 101 have included Empire Aero Center, which performed maintenance work on commercial aircraft until 2010, and Premiere Aviation, which took over and did similar work until it closed last summer. An aircraft maintenance company occupied part of it before Empire but lasted only a couple of years.
Other financial details in the complex arrangement gave some lawmakers pause.
One is that building 101, the largest hangar on the site, is legally owned by 394 Hangar Road Corp., an entity created to take advantage of state economic-development incentives to find paying tenants on behalf of Oneida County. Opened as an Army airfield for World War II and named for a New York state military aviator, the base was closed in 1995 as the Cold War wound down, and largely turned over to the county. County legislators voted to exercise an option to take title to the property but the deal has not closed yet, and some lawmakers expressed concern that liens may remain on some equipment in the buildings. Without closing, the concern was C&S may not have time to start work before winter sets in.
The Board of Legislators meets at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the county courthouse in Utica.