MILTON — The company that runs day-to-day operations of the Saratoga County-owned airport wants to invest up to $7 million of its own money for additional hangar space.
But in exchange for the work, North American Flight Services, the county’s fixed-base operator, wants to extend its contract with the county, which is set to expire in 2028, to 2061.
A public hearing concerning the proposed 40-year deal will be held by the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors at 3 p.m. on Dec. 15.
Airport manager John Zilka did not return phone messages seeking information about the proposal.
According to county records, North American Flight Services proposes construction of a 22,500-square-foot hangar for storage of based and transient aircraft, rehabilitation of 29,000 square feet of apron, and a 14,500-square-foot expanded apron at the airport’s west facility. All work would be done to meet the demand of NAFS clients.
The airport currently has seven hangars. Of the seven, NAFS manages five county-owned hangars as part of its lease with the county, according to county spokeswoman Christine Rush.
The other two hangars are owned by glider clubs and sit on land leased to them by the county, Rush said.
North American Flight Services is proposing to privately fund the hangar project, including permitting, design and construction, at an estimated cost of $6 to $7 million. Once constructed, it is proposed that NAFS will maintain ownership of the hangar and pay any applicable taxes.
The 40-year lease would enable NAFS “sufficient time as the Fixed Based Operator of the Saratoga County Airport in which to recoup its investment in the construction upgrades,” according to county records.
County public works commissioner Chad Cooke said the length of the proposed pact is “essentially until they can recognize some reasonable rate of return for spending $7 million on infrastructure in the county.”
Cooke, who took no position on the proposal, said the company had done a “great job” in its 22 years managing the airport.
In terms of need, Cooke said, “I think if you were to talk to anybody in the aviation industry, they would be able to tell you that there’s no such thing as too much hangar space. It’s a growing industry. They’ve identified a need based on the existing hangar space that they lease from us.”
But Milton Supervisor Benny Zlotnick, a longtime opponent of previous proposals to expand airport operations, said he’s against the proposed hangar expansion.
“It won’t be an expansion of the runway, so to speak, but they’re proposing to put up a building so that folks who own planes can store them out of the weather,” Zlotnick said. “I’m just not in favor of that.”
Zlotnick said the county airport is getting too big for the small town.
“The residents around the airport have seen fencing go up that looks like a prison camp,” Zlotnick said. “I don’t see the need for the barbed wire at the top of it. I think a normal fence would have been just fine.
“There’s been an increase in helicopter traffic at the airport because of the helicopter school that has opened up. I think it’s a little bit too much for our small town. Because it’s a county-owned piece of property, the town gets no say as to what kind of businesses are allowed to run there.
“I would like the town to have a little more say, or at least some say into what goes into that airport,” Zlotnick said. “But right now that’s not the situation.”
According to FAA records, the airport sits on more than 500 acres and has 47 based aircraft. Its peak use is during the horseracing season.
Saratoga County is designated by the FAA as the airport sponsor of the Saratoga County Airport, meaning the county owns and maintains the land and the FAA has full control over the governance of the type and frequency of aircraft that use the airport and the air space above.
The county’s role in the airport is to maintain county-owned roads, grounds and facilities, which the Saratoga County Department of Public Works has done since the late 1960s, Rush said.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.