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Archived Story

Airport board presents proposal for Chesy site

Published 9:55am Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Debate on value of property continues

 

Even though the Lawrence County Commissioners have officially stopped pursuing the idea of turning the site of the county’s airport into a commercial development, the fate of the airpark dominated Tuesday’s commission meeting, two days early because of the July 4 holiday.

Bill Nenni, of the Lawrence County Airport Advisory Board, presented the commissioners with a one-page airpark agreement to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

“We encourage you to look at it and pass the agreement,” Nenni told the commission. “The advisory board and the pilots association passed it. We see it as a path forward for the airport without costing the county any more. We can self-sustain ourselves. We need the agreement in place.”

Under the agreement, the county commission would remain the sole controller of the airport and its real estate and be the financial sponsor for airport improvements. The advisory board, originally set up and appointed by the commission, would approve expenditures, keep a list of possible hangar tenants and facilitate capital improvements.

The pilots association would track the payments from tenants that are received by the county and take care of the grounds.

All funds in the county’s airport line item account would go into the next fiscal year. The commission would make the commitment to spend funds in that account only on the airport. Any anticipated revenues uncollected as of Jan. 1, 2014, would go into the airport line item when collected.

“These include, but are not limited to grant reimbursement, costs recovered from the eminent domain lawsuit, unpaid rents of tenants and other revenues that would normally be assigned to this line item,” the proposal states.

Recently the county filed an eminent domain lawsuit against the family that owns land adjacent to either end of the airport in order to upgrade the runways to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The county has valued that acreage at $280,000 while the owners say it is worth $1.8 million.

During the meeting Nenni said the county could recover its cost from the FAA.

“If we have done everything the FAA wants, we will all be reimbursed by the FAA,” he said.

“That isn’t true,” Commission President Bill Pratt said. “It depends on how much it is.”

Also in the agreement the county will collect the rents with the pilots association checking on the payment status of those rents and help in collecting late payments. The advisory board will recommend action to the commission on collecting past due accounts.

The proposed agreement also states “All expenses will be approved by the (advisory board) and paid by the (commissioners).”

While the commission postponed taking action on the agreement, Commission President Bill Pratt crossed that clause out of his copy of the agreement.

“That takes the decision making out of our hands,” Pratt said after the meeting. “I don’t agree to that. If we have liability of having an airport so we should have the decision making ability.”

Speaking out in favor of the proposal was Commissioner Les Boggs; however, action was tabled.

Later in the meeting Fayette Township Trustee Mike Finley spoke against investing in the current site of the airport claiming it benefits too few in the county.

“No economic growth can come from the airport when something else can be done there,” he said. “An airport of that size, we can’t afford it.”

Finley said only a larger airport at a different site with an 8,000-foot runway could benefit the county. He also contended that only seven Lawrence County residents keep planes there with the majority of those renting space are out of state.

However Nenni said the FAA statistics are that there are 42,000 take offs and landings annually.

“There is no way,” Finley said. “There are not that many good days in Lawrence County.”

Later Nenni said out of the 42 who have hangars or tie-down rentals at the airport, approximately 50 percent are from the county. Also Attitude Aviation, a business on the airport site, provides seven to 10 jobs and offers the largest aviation school within 100 miles of the county, he said.

“I think those seven to 10 jobs are critical,” Nenni said. “I don’t see any reason to be getting rid of those jobs. There are about 70 people who receive training at that airport. It is post secondary education.”

Pratt, who pushed to relocate the airport and turn the current site into a commercial development such as an upscale mall, reiterated his objections to the county supporting the airport.

“It is not a public airport. It is a private airport,” he said.

Pratt stepped back from his effort after the FAA told him since the county has taken more than $800,000 in federal funds for the site, the acreage must remain an airport. Also if the airport were shut down and commercially developed, the county could not have any of that revenue.

“That forces us to maintain an airport,” Pratt said. “In my opinion that is unconstitutional. I don’t think they can. Does Lawrence County want to get in bad debt to the FAA?”

 

 

 

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  • mikehaney

    To concern oneself with what state uses the Chesapeake airport is dangerous. I would love to know the percentage of Lawrence county residents that work in West Virginia and/or Kentucky.
    Personally I feel at home in Ohio, West Virginia or Kentucky. The Tri-State, KY/OHIO/WVA area.
    Also, lest we forget, we are talking about the “LAWRENCE COUNTY” airport.

    (Report comment)

  • BillPratt

    Lawcovoter,
    Part of the reason this has become an issue is because you now have elected officials from the eastern end of Lawrence County, like myself, who grew up here and have watched the airport for years. In fact, county officials who graduated from Chesapeake are very rare. I have seen good times and bad at our airport. What I’ve done is scrutinize the involvement we have as a county. In the end, there may be no interest at all for a development but we will at least have done some ground work if that day comes.

    I had an opportunity in my youth to go to one of the air shows made possible by a former Sheriff that was terrific. At that time, the grounds were spotless.

    Today, even though a few work very hard at it, the grounds look about as bad as I have ever seen them. There appears to either be no pride or simply no funds to make it happen. I’ve always had the opinion that you can be poor but you don’t have to be trashy.

    This may be because there is no FBO (fixed base operator), only a company that sells fuel, which coincidentally was the last FBO.

    In any event, what we’ll have when we get passed all this is something better. Will it be an airport in 20 years? I’m not sure.

    I’ve had the opportunity, being from Chesapeake, to think about this issue for years. My thoughts about this didn’t happen overnight. I’ve been able witness individuals doing stunts in their planes over top of our farm. One even looked as if he or she were going to land in one of our fields. I’ve also played ball and now watch my children play ball in Chesapeake and see some of the same shenanigans. Of course the FAA says this is a safe distance from the schools. I’m not so sure.

    I’m just one person who isn’t shy about voicing his opinion. Being Commissioner, that can be counterproductive at times. I just can’t help myself. I’m glad we have a few here in this blog who aren’t shy about voicing theirs either. You have brought up points that I hadn’t thought about and I appreciate that.

    Have a good week all. How ’bout a trip to the fair?

    Bill

    (Report comment)

  • lawcovoter

    Again, I would support any developement at the site if we knew it was a viable property. But you have the KMart plaza that is at less than half capacity. You have the plaza behind Speedway in Burlington that has vacancies. You have the point less than 10 miles away which has rail service that is struggling to maintain occupancy. Show me the demand. That intersection at County Rd 1 and Charley Creek operates at near capacity now. Adding the traffic of an “upscale” shopping plaza would only add to an already congested area creating more headaches for the citizens who live nearby and have to deal with it everyday. Add school traffic and the delays would grow.

    I think the citizens of Lawrence County should see the numbers from the airport. It is my understanding that the money the county has had to pay in consulting and legal fees are reimbursable by the FAA. If so, how much revenue is collected from payroll taxes? Sales taxes on fuels? Sales tax on instruction given at the airport? Taxes from maintenance services performed? Since there is no mortgage note to pay, other than utilities what expenses are there? Line items in a fiscal year accounting report( such as consulting and legal fees not normally encountered) can be looked at as loss generating issues when viewed in such a manner. Rents should be able to cover a normal operating year, if not, raise them. If it still looses money, then maybe we take different steps.

    Let the pilots and tenants be on the hook for insurance. Let them run it. It is my understanding they already take care of the maintenance anyway. You have a viable piece of transportation infrastructure that functions the way it was intended. Why take that away? If the FAA says it has to stay as an airport, then lets make the most it. You have a functioning business already established on the site. Aircraft mechanics and shops like that one aren’t on every corner. That is a specialty service that adds to the uniqueness of this property.

    As a disclaimer, I am not a pilot, not an airplane owner. I’m just a concerned citizen living close to the property in question. I want the best for the county just as much as the trustees and our commission. I find it interesting that after all of these years the airport has suddenly became an unnecessary burden, as well as a safety hazard, when the schools in question were built after the airport.

    (Report comment)

  • MikeFinley

    I just want to say I don’t own any property near the airport. I am a trustee of Fayette Township and I just want to see the township and the county grow. The airport has little if any economical value whatsoever. The county pays all the liability insurance for the airport with taxpayers money. The airport could be economically feasible if moved to a location where it could have an 8,000 foot runway.

    Only ten-thousandth of one percent residents of Lawrence County uses this airport. I was told by a former commissioner that a few years ago they asked for a rent roll and never received one to find out what percentage of the people are truly Lawrence County residents. Why can’t that be supplied now so we can move forward and know what we are dealing with. I think a feasibility study is a great idea. I think we have great commissioners who have innovative ideas for the county. Lets all work together – Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party, etc. and find a good use for this land that could create jobs and pay taxes to the county and township that we don’t have to subsidize and more than ten-thousandths of one percent would use.

    (Report comment)

  • Poor Richard

    Glad you missed me, commissioner Pratt. No need for apologies, I agree with you regarding non-residents!

    (Report comment)

  • BillPratt

    Lawcovoter,

    I’m glad you came back home for a career and to raise a family as I did after a four year stay at tOSU. You’re right, I went a little too far in my remark about out of county residents but I still believe Lawrence County residents should have the first options for leases. Our county takes on the liability of an airport so our residents should realize the benefit. Nothing wrong with disagreeing with me, though.

    (Report comment)

    • lawcovoter

      I agree that Lawrence County residents should have first choice for hangars. I think we agree making Lawrence County a viable economic contender for the future is important. I think having air access for General Aviation airplanes is a part of that, you disagree. Which is the great thing about our freedoms as Americans.

      I like your idea of having community commission meetings in a public setting such as the Thursday meeting in Burlington a few weeks ago. Previous arrangements with work kept me from that meeting, and I am unable to attend the regular meetings in the mornings. Please continue to make efforts such as the Burlington meeting in the future. They are a great way to stay in touch with your constituents, and I applaud your efforts there.

      (Report comment)

  • lawcovoter

    Add another Chesapeake graduate to the debate. After leaving the area for college, I returned to my hometown and Lawrence County to start “life” and a family. I want my children to have the same experiences in the county as I did growing up.
    That being said, I take exception to the remarks that so and so hasnt been a resident of the county for very long. Does that make their opinion any less important? We should be welcoming new residents with open arms. Look at the east end of the county towards Rome. The new houses being built and growth that has occurred in the last 20 years in that area is astounding. I would venture to say that some of those residents havent been residents as long as others either. Why should that matter. Look at the tax base the county has been able to utilize for revenue.
    I admire the commissioners desire to make the county a better place to live. Thats the reason I came back to my roots. But I think the rush to try and sell the airport for development needs more consideration. I agree with the poster below, lets think this through before we go forward. If the rent for the hangar tenants isnt covering the operati

    (Report comment)

    • lawcovoter

      ng expenses, raise the rent.
      This airport is already in existence, lets make the most of it.

      (Report comment)

  • BillPratt

    Poor Richard,
    Glad to see you back in the conversation. That makes at least 4 Chesapeake graduates debating the issue of an airport less than a half mile from our alma mater.

    (Report comment)

  • Poor Richard

    Well, interesting that county commissioners are becoming more observant and doing some research before jumping into a decision with no life preserver.

    There is NO WAY TO KNOW OR PREDICT THE OUTCOME OF WHAT WOULD BE MORE SUCCESSFUL without a feasibility study to analyze the ability to complete the project(s) successfully, taking into account legal, economic, technological, past projects, demographics, history, traffic patterns, scheduling and other factors. Rather than just diving into a project and hoping for the best, a feasibility study allows all involved to investigate the possible negative and positive outcomes of a project before investing too much time and money.

    As for Finley, if memory serves, Finley went to school with one or more of the Wilson brothers and owns property in the vicinity of the airport so I suspect any opinion provided will be slanted in his favor.

    As for small airports in every county, I believe, according to a recent letter to the editor, that was a product of former Governor Rhodes back in the 1960s.

    Lakefield Airport in Montezuma, Ohio has been going through similar questions as to the economic value of their airport earlier this year, maybe they can provide some insight to county commissioners.

    (Report comment)

  • mikehaney

    Could someone please explain the restrictions on small private planes at a large commercial airport?
    There must be since every county in Ohio has a small airport.

    (Report comment)

  • mickakers

    It appears to me, the Tri-State Airport in Huntington is centrally located and capable of serving Huntington, Ashland and Lawrence County Ohio. Why have duplicate and expensive services for such a close knit community?

    (Report comment)

  • Digi

    Once again we are back to the what ifs of developing this land into something more that we know can not be done without paying off the debt to the FAA. What I want to know is why this county owned airport isn’t ran by any county input? And why they are so insistent about keeping the control amongst themselves while the county foots the bill when time after time we’ve said show a list of renters and what’s due and not due. I mean heck far you aren’t afraid to show late taxes that are only six months behind so why not publish this? Perhaps some public embarrassment might make some pay up!

    (Report comment)

  • mikehaney

    Portsmouth,Jackson,Athens,Chillicothe,Circleville,Gallipolis,Hillsboro,Washington C.H.,Waverly,are just a few of close by airports. With no knowledge of how to compare these to our airport I would be at a disadvantage, but others see value in a small local airport; why can’t Lawrence County?

    If we want to sell Lawrence County, we have to have something to sell first.

    (Report comment)

  • mikehaney

    Welcome to Ashland Regional Airport! We are located 6 miles northwest of Ashland, KY on the Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia border. Our location strives to meet your needs and makes your stay in Ashland (whether short or long term) as comfortable as possible. With our wide range of services and up-to-date facilities, your satisfaction is the upper most important priority on our list. For local dining, area attractions and lodging info visit http://www.visitashlandky.com

    Kentucky Department of Aviation
    http://www.transportation.ky.gov/aviation/
    —————————————-
    As a clerk in transportation at Ashland Oil, I was invited
    to tag along with my boss several times to fly out of the above airport. If we want industry to come across the river, our Chesapeake airport is an asset.
    If the airport entices just one corporate entity to Ohio, the airport will have paid for itself.

    (Report comment)

  • BillPratt

    Mikehaney, I couldn’t agree more. We do live in the Tri-State and I’m happy you were able to reap the benefits from that. I think we all should be a little more focused on the Tri-State Airport. With some vision and careful consideration those in Ashland and Huntington might well be traveling to Lawrence County to work in 20 years. Our financial engine of Burlington just so happens to be smack dab in the middle of it all.

    (Report comment)

  • Dad

    If it is a public airport, I think the tribune should post a list of the occupants and there addresses. I find it hard to believe there are that many people in Lawrence County that can afford an airplane.

    (Report comment)

  • mikehaney

    BillPratt- Most of those individuals are not Lawrence County residents or have not been long. One advantage of an out of state resident leasing a hangar or a tie down spot, besides the low lease rate, is the the ability to escape the annual personal property tax in West Virginia and Kentucky. My opinion is that residents of Lawrence County should have the first chance at hangar spaces and from what I’ve been told this waiting list has been manipulated. –
    ——————————————
    Boy, living in Ironton for 30 years and working for Ashland Oil, sure am glad Kentuckians let me drive across the bridge to work. We live in the Tri-State Bill. I don’t think you want to go there.

    (Report comment)

  • mikehaney

    MikeFinley— The potential of this piece of property if developed properly is phenomenal.
    —————————————-
    I’m sure the same thoughts were shared when the shopping center on rt 60 behind Ashland (Sears,Elder-Beerman), by those developers.

    (Report comment)

  • MikeFinley

    The fact is that Lawrence County owes approximately $894,000 to the FAA for the Lawrence County Airport. This piece of property makes no money for the county. The airport board wants to spend approximately $250,000 more on a lighting project. This would put Lawrence County well over a million dollars in debt to the FAA that has to be paid back when the airport is shut down because it cannot sustain itself. The people that are operating it right now can walk away and leave the taxpayer’s of Lawrence County to pay off this debt or we could work out a deal with the Wilson family and possibly bring in more jobs, economic growth and tax base for the county to lessen the tax burden on the people of Lawrence County. Do you think it is really economically feasible for five to seven plane owners that live in Lawrence County that are true residents of Lawrence County to control this kind of debt for the rest of the taxpayers? I am also concerned about the four schools in Ohio that are in the flight path of this airport. As a trustee I would like to see economical growth for Lawrence County and Fayette Township. The potential of this piece of property if developed properly is phenomenal. What are your thoughts for the commissions?

    (Report comment)

  • BillPratt

    I just want to clarify one of my statements here. When I said the airport was a private airport not a public airport, I was being a little sarcastic. Of course it is a public airport but has the appearance of a private airport because in my opinion it is controlled by a select few. Most of those individuals are not Lawrence County residents or have not been long. One advantage of an out of state resident leasing a hangar or a tie down spot, besides the low lease rate, is the the ability to escape the annual personal property tax in West Virginia and Kentucky. My opinion is that residents of Lawrence County should have the first chance at hangar spaces and from what I’ve been told this waiting list has been manipulated.

    I appreciate Mr. Finley voicing his thoughts at our meeting. He has a unique perspective. He is a Fayette township trustee, he was a member of the Airport Advisory Committee, he is a local business man, and he is graduate of Chesapeake. He is also a licensed pilot and flew out of this airport for fifteen years. I value his opinion greatly. I wish others had his initiative to bring their thoughts to the table with us. I enjoy a lively discussion like we had on Tuesday morning.

    Bill Pratt
    Lawrence County Commissioner

    (Report comment)

  • mikehaney

    Gee, I like airplanes. Apparently some don’t.
    As far as running a small airport, the Lawrence County Commissioners have no clue.
    Hang in there Bill.

    (Report comment)

  • Digi

    I am glad Pratt is smart enough to object to giving their committee full control over the airport! That would be the most foolish thing that they could do, and you notice though one commissioner was ready to jump right on the offer hook, line and sinker! Says a lot about him! They have already figured out the airport needs to stay right there, and now they just need to step up and get it together and get to collecting past due fees and rent on the hangers. You can make a go of this airport if you put you mind to it!

    (Report comment)

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