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Airport authority plan in limbo

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Airport authority plan in limbo
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For years, there has been discussion of the need for an airport authority to run Syracuse's Hancock Airport. Proponents say it would allow the airport to be more competitive. YNN's Bill Carey says a plan that seemed to be taking shape in 2009 is now sidelined by new talks on a new approach.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It was last summer, after years of negotiations, that deals were struck with towns and school districts surrounding Hancock Airport to resolve tax issues and clearing the way for creation of an authority to operate the facility. Buffalo, Albany and Rochester airports are all controlled by authorities. Syracuse is the last major city to run its own airport.

Lawmakers' questions delayed action last August, but there were assurances the delay would not be long.

That promise of action came nine months ago. And since then, there's been little public discussion of the authority plan. Now, it appears, Syracuse's new mayor is taking a fresh look at the idea of how to run Hancock.

"Perhaps look at a true regional authority for the airport. And looking at all different sorts of things. Nothing is off the table. Nothing is really on the table, but really the goal is to make sure that we have an economic development driver, such as an airport is, that makes sense for the entire region," said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Proponents of the original airport authority plan complain that each passing day is another lost opportunity in improving Hancock. They also question whether an overhaul of the plan might result in problems when it comes to those carefully negotiated deals with towns and school districts.

The mayor says the key is new talks with Onondaga County.

"But it's really at the very beginning stages of the conversation," said Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney.

The County Executive says she is encouraged by discussions on rethinking all government services, but she agrees the airport should be a priority.

"Anything that we can do that's going to generate economic development and revenue has to be a priority," Mahoney said.

But the mayor is setting no new deadlines.

"I don't have a deadline, such as if you say to me, by July 4th or June 30th, no. What we're getting together is saying, what is best for this community? And how can we reach that?" Miner stated.

And for now, the idea of an authority remains on hold.

State Assemblywoman Joan Christensen, who has been ready to sponsor state legislation creating the new authority, says she has written to the mayor several times in recent months asking about the status of the program. She says the mayor has not responded to those letters.

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