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Potsdam seeks funding for costly jet fuel pump

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POTSDAM — The village is looking to secure grant funding to build a jet fuel pump at the Potsdam Municipal Airport after discovering that the project will cost about $25,000 more than initially anticipated.

The village began planning for a jet fuel pump in August in hopes of selling the fuel at a 15 percent markup to the Cape Air planes and LifeNet medical helicopters that operate at the airport.

Early estimates indicated the pump would cost about $60,000, but two contractors have bid to perform the installation and the lowest bid was $86,000.

“The cost is considerably higher than we hoped it would be,” Village Administrator David H. Fenton said.

The high price tag is hard to stomach, he said, especially since jet fuel sales would be only a modest moneymaker for Potsdam.

“It’s tough to justify spending that kind of money,” he said.

The village has started looking for outside funding to support some or all of the cost of the new equipment. Leaders hope to score a grant from the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency, which focuses on economic development and job creation in the region.

The Potsdam Municipal Airport already sells standard aviation fuel, but not the jet fuel used by LifeNet’s helicopters and other commercial aircraft.

Having jet fuel available may increase traffic at the airport and allow it to expand, Mr. Fenton said.

According to village Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis, both the airport and LifeNet helicopters provide a benefit to the entire region, not just the village, and should be eligible for funding from outside sources.

“I think that it should be regionally funded,” Mr. Yurgartis said.

When the board initially began looking for contractors to install the pump last fall, nobody responded. This was because of a high demand for similar work in other communities, Mr. Fenton said.

The village has also commissioned an obstruction study for the airport, identifying tall trees that might prove hazardous to low-flying aircraft.

“If you’re going to have the airport, you’ve got to keep it where it’s safe,” Mr. Fenton said.

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