Airpark debate lingers for county

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 29, 2008

SYBENE— It appears to be an issue that won’t go away anytime soon.

The Lawrence County Commission Thursday night revisited the question of how and why the land at the Lawrence County Airpark should be used— and if it should be used as anything other than an airpark.

Richard Wilson, of North Kenova Holdings, whose family leased the land to the county for an airpark decades ago, asked the commission if it had gotten an opinion from the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office about whether unused land at the airpark should or could be used by the Eastern Lawrence County Youth Soccer League.

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Wilson told the commission two weeks ago having the soccer league playing at the airpark not only violates the lease agreement, it also puts children in danger.

“To have young people running around on runways is beyond the comprehension of myself and others I have spoken to,” Wilson said. “I know of no other airfield in Ohio that allows a soccer field to exist in such proximity to an active airfield.”

But Commissioner Jason Stephens said the children were not near the runways and did not play on the runways, but used an open field that, while it may be on airpark property, is actually close to County Road 1.

“This is unfortunate. When the soccer league began, it was a way for kids in eastern Lawrence County to have fun and get some exercise. It’s s shame it’s been made into a political football,” Stephens said.

Stephens said a bigger concern at the airpark is the trees on Wilson’s land at the end of the runway that create a hazard for pilots flying in and out of the airport — trees Wilson has refused to cut in spite of knowing they create a hazard, Stephens said. Wilson called Stephens’ claim about his trees “bogus.”

Thursday night’s meeting was the commission’s annual joint session with the Concerned Citizens of Burlington. The CCB invited the commission to attend a Sept. 20 dedication of the Josiah and Margaret Riley Day log cabin that was donated and moved to the Burlington Commons recently.

The dedication will be at 6 p.m.

Some residents raised specific questions about their community and how the county government could help them. Russell Coleman said at the last CCB meeting, a representative of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office attended their meeting and discussed the possibility of having more patrols in Burlington more often.

The sheriff’s office representative had told the CCB sheriff’s office did not have the money to step up patrols. Coleman asked if the county commission could help.

Commission President Doug Malone said at this time with the county’s tight budget, he did not know if that was possible.

Next week’s commission meeting will be at the Ironton City Center. That meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday.