Committee Will Study Airport Costs

The town’s budget and finance advisory committee will be asked to conduct a financial analysis of the airport, focusing on operating expenses

    East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, the town board’s new liaison on East Hampton Airport matters, rolled up her sleeves and dove into the long-controversial subject of the airport during her first month in office.

    At a town board meeting on Tuesday, she outlined a plan of action on several fronts.

     The town’s budget and finance advisory committee will be asked to conduct a financial analysis of the airport, focusing on operating expenses, including maintenance costs, current revenue as well as prior revenue trends and possible new revenue streams, and airport property leases. The focus, according to a statement read at a town board meeting Tuesday by Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, will be on “obtaining reasonable estimates of airport net cash flow under various operating scenarios.” That, she said, will provide information on money available for payments on bonds that may be issued for airport capital projects.

    The need for such information has long been cited as a key to making a decision about whether or not East Hampton should continue to accept Federal Aviation Administration grants, which come with obligations as to how the airport must be operated.

    Several adjunct appointees with financial expertise and knowledge about airport matters will be added to the committee to do this work: Frank Dalene, David Gruber, Gene Oshrin, Pat Trunzo, and Tom Twomey. They will work with Arthur Malman, the budget and finance committee chairman, Bonnie Krupinski, and Peter Wadsworth, in conjunction with Jim Brundige, the airport manager, and Ms. Burke-Gonzalez.

    “Ultimately the financial analysis will help guide the board on how the airport can best be financed in the future, either self-financing or through F.A.A. subsidies, as it is the board’s desire to have it operate without cost to taxpayers,” Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said. The goal is to have the analysis completed by the spring. The information, according to the resolution to be offered tonight, will serve as a “baseline of agreed-upon data for further discussions and policy decisions by the board.”

    On the noise abatement front, the town board is expected to pass a resolution tonight hiring DY Consultants to draft a request for proposals, so that the town may hire analysts to review operations and noise data. That, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said, will help the town “narrowly define the noise problem” and identify methods for addressing it. In order to gain F.A.A. approval for possible airport use restrictions, the town must pinpoint the cause of noise problems, and target proposed restrictions.

    Also expected tonight is approval of a new airport planning committee comprising two subcommittees, one with representatives of the aviation community, and one of noise abatement advocates.

    The two groups, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez explained Tuesday, will be asked to draft a plan for the airport that address noise abatement, operations, and capital improvements.

    “Maintenance at the airport has been virtually ignored,” the councilwoman said in her statement, and both capital and routine improvements are needed to sustain a safe facility. The prior town board adopted a five-year, $5.3 million airport capital improvement plan, and a $5.2 million maintenance plan in December, she said, but “with very little input from the community.”

    Noise-abatement advocates who will be tapped for the new group are Kathleen Cunningham, Mr. Dalene, Charles Ehren, Mr. Gruber, Tom MacNiven, Jim Matthews, Mr. Trunzo, and Peter Wolf. That group will have its first meeting on Monday at 4 p.m. at Town Hall. The public will be welcome to attend.

    The aviation community representatives have not yet been named, but will be members of the pilots’ association and owners of airport businesses.

    The involvement of the budget and finance committee and the new airport planning committee, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said, will allow the town board to “operate a safe and efficient airport serving the East Hampton community, resolve the noise problem that has remained unaddressed for 30 years, and determine whether the airport will be self-financing, or continue to rely on F.A.A. subsidies.”