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Picente hints at direct flights out of Griffiss coming

By JOLEEN FERRIS

ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr. delivered his state of the county address to a packed ballroom Tuesday morning at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Utica.

Growth, change and the county's fiscal health were central themes of the roughly nine-page address. While the county seat, Utica, is on life support, facing a possible 18.19% property tax hike and loss of nearly 40 jobs, the county is doing much better financially. Picente expects to close 2011 under budget, meaning an operating surplus for every year he's been in office.

Picente said while the county is not a bank, he stands ready to help the city move forward in any way possible, most likely through consolidation and shared services. Utica mayor Robert Palmieri was among those in attendance for the address, and agreed.

Picente also hinted toward something central New Yorkers have coveted for years: direct flights to Florida cities from Griffiss in Rome.

"It is very real. I mean, they've looked at it, they've seen the growth," said Picente.

He said Allegiant Air is all but committed to offering a few flights a week on a trial basis beginning in September.

"It'll be a couple days a week but it's better than nothing and it could add more to Griffiss in terms of our ability to get a terminal building," Picente said. "But it could enhance our efforts to add more jobs," Picente added.

The county executive recognized Brian and Lynette Wyman during the state of the county address. The parents of murdered Oneida County Sheriff's Deputy Kurt Wyman learned for the first time at the address that Picente will ask the county legislature to rename the Sheriff's Department Law Enforcement Building the, "Kurt B. Wyman Law Enforcement Building". The couple said they are grateful that their grandchildren will have a tangible reminder of their father's courage.

In an effort to operate more efficiently, Picente will also propose doing away with the current system of four elected county coroners and replacing it with a medical examiner's office, possibly contracting with a forensic pathologist. That would require approval from the county legislature.

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