Barbour County Airport closure raises questions

PHILIPPI – Questions have been raised after the Philippi/Barbour County Airport Authority closed the airport due to inclement winter weather last week.

The former president of the Airport Authority, Dean Springer, wrote in an email to The Inter-Mountain that the airport had been shut down at 4:23 p.m. on Jan. 3 and was not reopened until Jan. 8.

Philippi Mayor Jerry Mouser said this week the closure was caused by winter weather concerns, but said he could not confirm the dates or times of the closure.

Barbour County Commissioner Jedd Schola, who is an Airport Authority member, confirmed Mouser’s information, adding that a notice of the airport’s closure due to the harsh weather conditions was announced.

Springer has maintained in recent months that shutting down the airport within 20 years of receiving federal funding is a violation of the Federal Aviation Administration funding regulations. He insists that the airport runway must remain open.

“In real bad weather I don’t know if it’s uncommon for that (airport closures) to happen,” Barbour County Administrator Chuck Foley said. “We’re not a big airport, but I guess when you take funding, you must follow the guidelines the best you can.”

Mouser said he wasn’t certain who would have made the decision to close the airport because Springer’s resignation was effective on Dec. 31.

“Somebody had to make the decision to close the airport,” Mouser said, adding that, to the best of his knowledge, a new president of the Airport Authority has not been selected.

Schola said that Airport Authority member Lemuel Jones is serving as the interim president until an official president can be selected.

A representative from the FAA was invited to speak at a Barbour County Commission meeting Monday to address questions surrounding the airport; however, the representative, Matthew DiGiulian, did not address the airport’s multi-day closure this month.

DiGiulian did tell commissioners at Monday’s meeting that the airport can not be closed for non-aeronautical events without FAA permission and that permission is rarely granted. He also said that there has to be a “good reason” for the closure request.

Schola had recently suggested that the Airport Authority host a drag racing event on the runway to generate money for an operations budget.

The airport is jointly owned by the Barbour County Commission and Philippi City Council.

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