MONTGOMERY — Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus helped cut a ceremonial ribbon across the new runway at the county airport on Thursday in one of a flurry of final public appearances before he departs on Sunday for an extended tour of military duty in the Middle East.
Neuhaus, who serves in the naval reserves and is assigned to a special operations unit based in Virginia, is being deployed for an indefinite period that he expects will be about six months. He said he will be stationed in a combat zone but can’t reveal which country because of military confidentiality. He underwent five weeks of combat training in Virginia and Texas to prepare for his deployment.
Deputy County Executive Harry Porr will serve as acting county executive in Neuhaus’ absence, although Neuhaus says he will keep in close contact with his office and participate in administration meetings through FaceTime. He said Thursday that he hopes to deliver the 2019 State of the County speech from the base where he will be stationed.
The recently completed project he helped celebrate in Montgomery was a repositioned main runway at the county-owned airport, which serves private planes. The new runway is just under a mile long and cost nearly $33 million, with 90 percent of the expense paid by the federal government through taxes on plane fuel, airline tickets and similar revenue sources. Orange County and the state each was expected to contribute about $1.5 million.
The runway was moved to shift it away from the Wallkill River and create about 1,000 feet of open space on either end for errant or emergency landings. Construction started in 2014.
“This is the biggest project this airport has had since the Army built this air field in 1943,” Ed Magryta, the county’s director of aviation, said to the gathered crowd on Thursday.
About 170 planes are kept at the airport, which has about 100,000 takeoffs and landings per year.
Neuhaus announced during the ribbon-cutting that the county is exploring the possibility of moving an annual air show to the county airport from New York Stewart International Airport, which has hosted the event for four years and will do so again in August.