Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 28, 2014

Mercer County Airport Authority discusses funding

BLUEFIELD — The Mercer County Airport Authority met Thursday morning for the first time since learning that the Mercer County Commission decided to reduce a portion of the funds the commission provides the authority each month. As expected, the authority discussed the issue at length.

“We talked with Mike Vinciguerra about it,” Airport Manager Clint Ransom said in a telephone interview. “Mr. Vinciguerra is president of the commission and also a member of the Airport Authority.” Ransom said that Vinciguerra explained that the cut was necessary because the commission has to replace the sprinkler system in the Mercer County Courthouse.

Ransom said that authority members asked Vinciguerra if any of the agencies that the commission provides funding for were cut, but he said they were not.

“The authority members brought up the fact that the economic development impact of having an airport in the community is important,” Ransom said.

“The first thing that a new business looks at when they consider locating in an area is going to be at the airport,” Charlie Cole, a member of the Airport Authority said in a telephone interview after the meeting. “The airport plays a significant role in bringing business into an area to increase the tax base and provide jobs.”

Vinciguerra clarified a point that was reported in a prior article about the authority’s January meeting. He explained that three of the five board members were absent and said there was not a quorum present to conduct a meeting in January.

“The Airport Authority members wanted to discuss the issue,” Vinciguerra said in a telephone interview after the meeting. “I encouraged them to attend the next meeting of the commission to discuss it with the commission members.”

“Charlie Cole said that he personally appreciates the support of the commission,” Ransom said.

Ransom reported that the airport has brought in more than $10 million in improvements in the past 10 years, and pointed out that the authority might miss out on an opportunity to bring another $5 million in the next five years without funds to meet the five percent matching funds.

In other matters, Ransom reported on the need to replace fuel trucks at the airport — one of which is a 1967 model.

He said that he and Jay Belt are currently working on a new website for the airport, added that students in the pilots’ ground school class are getting a lot of use from the flight simulator that was presented to the airport by an anonymous donor.

Ransom said the authority will have a bid opening on March 6, on the $300,000 taxiway realignment project, and said that plans are rapidly coming together for the May 24, Car Show/Fly In at the airport.

“We are working to be able to give any child between the ages of 6 to 18, a free ride in an airplane,” Ransom said. “We already have four pilots lined up to participate. If parents want to ride with their children they can do so for a $10 donation each to the airport,” Ransom said.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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