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An agreement to turn over Niagara Falls International Airport to a Spanish firm for 99 years will be the subject of a public hearing March 19.

The hearing, to be conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration, will allow residents, business representatives and others to comment on the airport's privatization.

U.S. Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-Town of Tonawanda, who has criticized the proposed deal, is among those planning to testify. "There are still improvements in the lease that are needed or desirable," LaFalce said. He said he would not elaborate until the hearing.

Owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, the airport has become part of a nationwide program that transfers public airports to private control. Cintra, a Spanish conglomerate, was selected by the NFTA to lease the facility, which is on Niagara Falls Boulevard and straddles the line between the towns of Niagara and Wheatfield.

The proposed contract gives Cintra control of the airport for 99 years in exchange for a commitment to operate the airport and spend at least $10.1 million over 13 years in marketing, promotion, capital improvements and planning.

The hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the auditorium of Niagara County Community College's Fine Arts Building, 3111 Saunders Settlement Road, Sanborn.

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