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Barbour Airport Authority in disarray

Four resign; lack of operations budget cited

October 26, 2013
By Melissa Toothman - Staff Writer (mtoothman@theintermountain.com) , The Inter-Mountain

President Dean Springer and three other Philippi/Barbour County Regional Airport Authority board members recently tendered their resignations.

Springer said members are upset because of they do not have an operations budget.

Tasks like replacing light bulbs and cutting the grass in the absence of an annual operations budget have become the responsibilities of the Airport Authority volunteers, Springer said. However, if the authority had an operations budget, funds in that budget would allow for the hiring of a part-time employee.

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

"We do all the stuff that needs to be done," Springer said. "At some point the volunteers just can't do that stuff any more. I'm tired of beating my head against the wall, and the other people are too."

The resignations of 20-year member Craig Bolton, Secretary/Treasurer Alice McDonald, eight-year member Mike Johnson and Springer, a six-year member, were issued on Oct. 17.

Johnson's resignation was effective immediately. The other resignations are effective at the end of December.

"When you get four resignation letters the same day, I think there's more issues than the city and the county not giving them a budget to work with," Commission President Jedd Schola said in a telephone interview this week. Schola also acknowledged that the resigning members were all county-appointed.

"The county and the city, we do feel that the airport is vital for infrastructure," Schola said, adding that there are other ways to get an operations budget for the airport, like hosting fundraisers.

Schola said that an out-of-state derby race has drawn crowds of people to Barbour County. Schola said many regional airports host annual events, and Elkins-Randolph County Regional Airport has earned $15,000 recently through hosting such events.

"So there is a demand for something like that around here," Schola said. "Not only that, they're bringing money into the community. I would like to see that happen here, maybe one or two events a year."

Although Springer said he believes the other members are resigning for reasons related to the budget, Schola pointed out that two members did not specify a reason for resigning and another said it was health-related. Springer left no room for speculation when articulating the reasons for his decision in his resignation letter.

"To date, no yearly operational financial support or budget has ever been given to the Airport Authority," Springer said in his resignation letter. "I do not believe the Airport Authority can continue to do these great things as long as there is no yearly budget along with financial

support."

Springer also added that more than $2.6 million in improvements and construction has been done since he started, and the Airport Authority will have reduced its debt of $575,000 to $58,000 this year without any operational financial support from the county or city.

"We could have worked closer with them, communicated better," Philippi Mayor Jerry Mouser said. "We don't want to lose good people from any of our committees or commissions. Good volunteers are very hard to come by. The airport is an asset to us and it will be in the future. I think it's making progress, a lot of improvements. We would not want to lose the airport or the Airport Authority."

Mouser also said that city labor has been utilized at the airport for various projects. While it might not have been through an operations budget, Schola said the city and county also have monetarily supported the Airport Authority.

"Absolutely, we've given money," Schola said. "I think we've been more than fair and more than giving."

Schola said the commission and Philippi City Council evenly split a gift of $30,000 two years ago to clear a lien to Alderson Broaddus University on the airport's deed, allowing the receipt of federal grant money toward a major

project.

He said that the commission also contributed $400,000 to satisfy a bridge loan needed around the same time, and that the amount has been returned since the project's

completion.

Following the resignations, the Barbour County Commission will consider how to proceed at its next meeting in November. Meetings typically take place at 5 p.m. on the first Monday of each month.

 
 

 

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