Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 4, 2013

Airport Authority to iron out property ownership

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — In spite of the economic challenges facing the nation these days, the long-awaited King Coal Highway remains on the books, although the Mercer County Airport Authority isn’t too sure that a parcel of property it sold to the Department of Transportation was actually the authority’s to sell.

“I believe that the DOT condemned a piece of property it thought the airport authority owned, but it does not,” Brian Huffman of Chapman Technical Group told the authority during its monthly meeting last month. “The pressing point here is that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is wanting to release the property from it’s books if it’s out of your property, but I don’t think it ever was part of your property.”

Randall Ernest, Mercer County Airport manager, said the DOT negotiated the property acquisition when John Gilly was serving as airport manager. Ernest expressed his opposition to the authority contracting an attorney to straighten the situation out. “It should be up to the DOT to go back and straighten this out,” he said.

Huffman showed maps of the property in question that clearly indicated that the authority did not own the property in question. Ernest said that he deposited the $15,000 the authority received from the DOH into a savings account, because he was uncertain about the ownership when he first learned of the deal.

“We can’t keep money that doesn’t belong to us,” Charlie Cole, a member of the authority said.

Huffman showed that the parcel was between to pieces of property with occupied residences on it. “It’s going to be found out,” Huffman said. “The FAA is pushing the authority to release this property.”

Huffman said that he has already started drafting a letter to the DOT to inform them of the situation. Cole made a motion to authorize Chapman Technical Group to prepare the letter. The motion carried without opposition.

“This has been going on for a year and a half,” Huffman said.

— Contact Bill Archer at