Tonawanda News — Leaders of the Niagara Military Affairs Council made their annual rounds to North Tonawanda City Hall this week, requesting donations to bolster their lobbying efforts on behalf the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
John Cooper, chairman of NIMAC, asked the common council Tuesday if it would consider a contribution of $5,000. A similar request made last year was denied, but Mayor Rob Ortt indicated that he would be interested in given at least some money for the cause.
Roughly 180 North Tonawanda residents are employed by the airbase, including 30 civilians, according to the organization. In total, about 3,000 people are employed at the base, while the funding would largely be used for advocacy efforts to keep the base from closing, a threat that has routinely come up in recent years.
Cooper said he has reached out to other municipalities across the area, including the City of Niagara Falls, which has committed to donating $40,000 through casino revenue, while funding contributions vary in the region’s towns and villages in the $3,500 to $6,000 range.
NIMAC, a non-profit, uses a hefty portion of its funding to utilize the services of lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to apply pressure on keeping the base up and running, according to Cooper. NIMAC has worked with federal, state and community leaders to influence the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, better known as BRAC, which looks at efficiency issues within the U.S. Department of Defense.
“We have a lot on our plate right now now with BRAC,” Cooper said, adding that a new simulator and a drone program has helped to add weight to keeping the airbase open.
Common Council President Rich Andres said that while the city declined to contribute last year in lieu of tight budgetary restraints, he and the council would “give it more consideration this time.”
“They brought it up before in tighter times and we didn’t go with it but I think it’s a very noble cause,” he said. “It certainly contributes to North Tonawanda and we’d hate to see 180 people lose their livelihood. I wish we weren’t having a conversation about closures again. We already successfully fought that off. From my mind it will come down to dollars and cents as to whether its the right move for our city’s budget.”
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.