airport4_120County Administrator Joe Mareane briefed Legislators on efforts to seek funding to keep open the control tower open at Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, in the wake of the loss of federal funding for control tower operations, as a result of federal sequestration.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has eliminated funding for contract tower operations across the nation, such as those at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, and has reduced support for operations at larger airports staffed by FAA controllers.

Mareane said that business, education, and government in recent days have come together in a coordinated approach about how funding for the tower and related equipment can be restored, communicating the importance of air service to this economy and how important this economy is to our region.  As part of this effort, he said the area’s federal delegation is being contacted, and the Governor’s Office will be engaged, both to assist in lobbying support with Washington and to see if the State can assist with finances.  While it is stressed that safety is not affected, the administrator said there is increased concern that our airport may be marginalized by this event, since it is currently the only airport with commercial service in New York State affected by this decision.

As part of this effort, Mareane and County Attorney Jonathan Wood said the County will consider filing suit against the FAA in federal court, as some other affected airports have done, which could seek a stay of the FAA’s action, which would close the airport tower as of May 5.  Mareane also said cost to staff the tower is estimated at about $500,000, with perhaps $200,000 more to maintain federal equipment.  While the airport remains safe and flying on schedule, he told legislators the county must respond aggressively and effectively, and essentially “leave no stone unturned.”