The New York State Legislature approved a bill that would allow East Hampton Town to take out long-term loans for capital improvements at East Hampton Airport.
The bill will still need the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo to become law, but state and local officials hailed it as a boost to the town’s ability to maintain and improve facilities at the airport without needing to accept restrictive federal grant funding.
“Given this current board’s position of not taking [Federal Aviation Administration] funding, this will help us improve the maintenance of the airport,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said.
The legislation, which was sponsored by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, allows the town to repay capital improvement bonds throughout the useful life of the upgrades, up to 30 years.
Currently, state law limits bond repayment for airport related projects to 10 years, even though municipalities routinely bond for other capital projects for up to 20 years.
The town is currently drafting a capital project plan, but has more than $1 million in capital improvements at the airport on its priorities list, including a new fuel farm, perimeter fencing and removal of potentially dangerous trees around the edges of flight paths, and is currently conducting a pavement evaluation study to identify needed repaving priorities.
While pilots groups have said the airport has been in need of many upgrades—including the deer fence around the perimeter, which was highlighted by this week’s strike of a deer by a landing aircraft—the Town Board has said it will not accept any FAA funding for work because the federal grants bring grant assurances that prevent the town from imposing some controls on the use of the airport. The last restrictions tied to past federal grants are due to expire in 2021 and the town has pledged to be able to fund appropriate maintenance through airport fees and commercial leases of airport land.