MONTICELLO, NY — The nine-minute public hearing on September 27, discussing Hatzolah Air’s construction and lease of a hangar at the Sullivan County International Airport, focused on the …
MONTICELLO, NY — The nine-minute public hearing on September 27, discussing Hatzolah Air’s construction and lease of a hangar at the Sullivan County International Airport, focused on the lack of public information available.
There wasn’t “enough information for the public to vote one way or the other,” said resident Chris Lesser. “If there’s no information out there, how can I support it?”
The resolution under discussion authorized the construction by Hatzolah Air of a 20,000 square foot hanger at the airport. It passed the public works committee on September 9 and the full legislature on September 14.
The text of the resolution added that “Hatzolah Air is committed to locating their world headquarters at the Sullivan County airport from which they will be able to launch life-saving missions while bringing a strategic and prestigious partner to the Sullivan County airport,” the resolution read. Hatzolah Air would buy its fuel at the airport and use local contractors to build the hangar and local residents to staff it as much as possible. They would make their equipment available for emergency situations in the county.
“Time for a teaching moment,” said resident Ken Walter. He recommended the Committee on Open Government’s book on conducting public meetings, “because your information is light.”
Although it was too late for this particular public meeting, Walter suggested that in the future, companies proposing similar projects should have representatives at public hearings. They could answer questions, take notes, and hear what the community thought about the project. “Nothing is going to change without questions being asked by the public,” he said. And as in the past, he asked for more public involvement in legislative work. “There are more than you nine people who can think and see things differently.”
He interjected a concern about contracts that are signed without being read. “You’re not supposed to buy a house that way, you don’t buy a car that way; why are you doing that with public funds?”
“They don’t own the hangar,” said legislator Joe Perrello, head of the public works committee. “They build it with a 30-year contract, and the county owns that building.”
At the end of the 30 years, Sullivan can do what it wishes with the building: keep it, sell it to Hatzolah, sell it to someone else.
Perrello supported the idea that representatives should attend public hearings. “They should come here, give us their spiel and listen. So if the public has questions, they can ask them. That’s what a public hearing is all about.”
Legislator Mike Brooks agreed. The time frame made it difficult this time, he said, but “going forward, it’s just good practice.”
The board of Hatzolah Air couldn’t attend for religious reasons, county attorney Mike McGuire said. The High Holy Days (Simchat Torah) began on September 27. Eli Rowe was in Israel, seven hours ahead, where it was after sundown, so was unavailable, but another board member on the West Coast could have participated. “They very much wanted to be here,” McGuire said. “They’re very excited about partnering with the county.”
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