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Group makes new plans for airpark

Tri-State Aviation Technologies Center, the group originally formed by county educators to run the Lawrence County Airpark, plans to lease the airport under a new non-profit status.

Monday, October 04, 1999

Tri-State Aviation Technologies Center, the group originally formed by county educators to run the Lawrence County Airpark, plans to lease the airport under a new non-profit status.

"We will be able to take contributions, private and public, and there are a lot of grants we qualify for that we couldn’t before," airport director Jay Conley said. "Nobody gets rich and it will provide more to students."

After plans for new buildings, new flight and maintenance classes and hiring Conley, the Lawrence County Educational Service Center pulled out of its airport lease with the county commissioners on July 26, citing liability and legal difficulties.

State auditors and education heads would not allow school systems to spend money on airports, even after months of arguing, county superintendent Harold Shafer said.

But Conley, the school board, colleges and universities that had written class plans, and county commissioners did not want to abandon the aviation center concept, he said.

Negotiations led to the non-profit idea, and the commission’s September decision to replace the school board with Conley as temporary "fixed-based operator" at the airport.

The aviation center’s non-profit status came through about two weeks ago and plans are just getting started, Conley said.

"This will be just what we intended on doing many months ago, but now with the non-profit approach ," he said.

With cooperative agreements between schools like Collins Career Center, Ohio University and Marshall University, the center can provide aviation, maintenance, aircraft vo-tech training, while at the same time providing a landing strip for private and commercial pilots, Conley said.

The airport also sells fuel, rents aircraft, conducts tours, offers hangar space and houses flight and parachute schools.

The county school board, and particularly Shafer, will serve in an advisory capacity to the aviation center and airport.

"As a school system, we cannot get involved, but to begin with, I will be one of the trustees," Shafer said.

"I really want to see that school built," he said. "I think it’s a tremendous career opportunity for the Tri-State area."

Several high school students and graduates remain interested in taking classes that will move them into aviation careers, he said.

The work will come in policies and procedures for such a school, which educators will help with, Shafer said.

The first step for the aviation center, though, will be negotiating the lease with the county, Conley said.

Those negotiations are slated to take place as soon as possible, he said.

The deal will be better in the long run, because with its non-profit status, the center will be able to augment its funding with tax-deductible contributions and charitable fund-raisers, Conley added.