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A site north of Salamanca has been recommended for a new county airport.

An advisory committee Tuesday night voted to recommend an airport for what is known as the Little Valley Hilltop Site instead of improving the Olean Municipal Airport. Seven members backed the Hilltop site while two members favored the existing facility.

The group's preferred site is on a forested hilltop in the Town of Little Valley, west of Route 219 and accessible from Hungry Hollow Road and Newton Run.

The panel was appointed by the Cattaraugus County Legislature three years ago to determine whether the Olean facility or another site would best serve area industry.

In a related development, a capital-improvement plan to identify funding sources will be drawn up by consultants for members of the advisory panel, which will formally recommend the Little Valley Hilltop Site before year's end.

Airport planner Andrew Holesko of Passero Associates of Rochester told the group the main obstacle to the Hilltop Site was removed recently when the state Department of Environmental Conservation determined a watershed could never be used for Salamanca's drinking-water supply.

Holesko earlier reported many small business jets were already using the Olean Airport and more than 35,000 annual uses were expected at the Olean facility by the year 2015. Consequently, the committee determined a site large enough to accommodate a 6,000-foot runway was needed.

At a meeting last year, the site was estimated to cost about $46.3 million to develop, compared to about $73.7 million to expand the Olean facility.

The committee plans to issue formal recommendation to the County Legislature after Holesko submits his final report before year's end. That recommendation will contain a stipulation that another site -- possibly the Olean facility -- will be substituted if the Little Valley Hilltop Site is found unsuitable for some reason or not eligible for funding by either the County Legislature or the Federal Aviation Administration.

Before the vote, Holesko told the committee the FAA told him the new airport may not be feasible and recommended the committee should not abandon the idea of making further improvements to the Olean facility, such as lengthening the 4,699-foot runway by "optimizing" terrain features.

He said his final report will include the results of a search for funding to build the new airport, as well as FAA, state Department of Transportation and local sources. He said he had been advised by the FAA that the traditional funding formula would not be available for the project.

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