Projects will help Watertown airport soar to new heights

Updated: Jun. 11, 2019 at 1:05 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, N.Y. (WWNY) - Over the next couple of years, the Watertown International Airport could see $15 million in improvements - spanning from runaway rehabilitation to new buildings and equipment.

First up are two projects that have already been designed and are out to bid - rehabilitating the airport’s secondary runway, which means fixing up cracks and drainage problems and replacing lighting and signage, and building an Airport Rescue Firefighting Building.

“We have never had a true airport fire station on the grounds before. We’ve had our equipment located in different buildings from our people and our people’s protective equipment located away from where they are housed so this will put everything into a central location for all of our supplies, fire apparatus and it will include a maintenance bay,” said Grant Sussey, airport manager.

Other projects in the works include building an air ambulance hangar to house the medevac helicopter and offices and living quarters for the staff and a new baggage claim carousel.

The airport also wants to build an access road that would loop around in front of the terminal next summer.

And when it comes to equipment, this fall the airport will be getting 2 multipurpose snow removal trucks to maintain surfaces in the winter. And it will also be getting an aircraft deicer truck.

So how is the airport able to make all these improvements?

“The vast majority of these projects are paid for through federal and state grants,” said Republican District 3 Legislator Phil Reed, chair of the General Services Committee. “The administration and the staff and county are very aggressive in going out and applying for these grants and taking full advantage of them.”

It’s part of the county’s strategic plan to grow smartly and not saddle its airport with a lot of debt. For federal projects, 95 percent of the costs are covered. The county only contributes 2.5 percent.

“The investment from the county is minimal compared to the amount of grants that we get for the facility,” said Reed. “When we can go out and get these projects done for 2.5 percent of the cost, that’s a big deal.”

After this $15 million investment, the county will have spent $50 million upgrading the airport since taking it over in 2006 and most of that money isn’t local tax money.

Reed points out it’s mostly federal funding.

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