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Suffolk earmarks $1.5 million to help build new business at Long Island MacArthur Airport

Passengers arrive for their flights at Long Island

Passengers arrive for their flights at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Suffolk County is joining the effort to help the ailing Long Island MacArthur Airport.

County Executive Steve Bellone announced Thursday that Suffolk County would allocate $1.5 million for the Islip Town-owned airport, which has faced years of declining revenue and traffic.

The majority of the money -- $1 million -- is earmarked for the construction of a new federal inspection station to deal with potential international flights, Bellone said. Another $500,000 will be focused on marketing the airport.

"We are a great region. We are a phenomenal region," Bellone said at a news conference at the airport in Ronkonkoma. "A great region needs a great regional airport."

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The proposed federal inspection station could cost up to $10 million to build and still requires approval from the federal Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Customs and Border Control.

Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter said at the news conference that the town's capital budget includes another $1 million for building the station. The hope is that once the station is built, LIMA can attract international flights, increase air traffic and bolster its sagging finances.

The infusion of county funding comes as Bellone prepares to release his proposed budget for 2016 on Friday. The county faces a $176 million deficit.

The county legislature's Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), said he supports boosting the airport, but the county is in a dire financial position.

"It's great for economic development and MacArthur; I just don't know where the money is going to come from," he said. Bellone's budget has to be approved by the legislature.

Earlier this week, Long Island's Regional Economic Development Council endorsed the inspection station at LIMA as one of its recommended projects in its application for millions in grants and state tax credits.

Airport officials have long touted LIMA's potential to handle international flights for the New York region. Last year, the airport built a Customs facility for private small aircraft coming from abroad.

Carpenter said having international flights at the airport would be a huge boon. Departing flights from LIMA dropped 5.8 percent from 2012 to 2013. Also, two airlines, PenAir and Allegiant Air, left the facility in 2014. The airport lost nearly $4.2 million from 2010 to 2012, town figures show.

Carpenter hailed Bellone's enthusiasm for revitalizing the airport. "His willingness to commit those resources to the airport and the federal inspection station is very, very important," she said, adding, "the commitment from our county executive is going to be the turning point."

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