Airport director seeks support for reliable air service

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Frustrated by what are irregular, truncated and canceled flight schedules provided by Via Airlines, Greenbrier Valley Airport Director Stephen Snyder offered an update in a presentation to the Greenbrier County Commission during a Tuesday afternoon meeting.

“Not having a reliable air service provider, which only offers a 67 percent completion rate, has a direct bearing on our county and is not what we contracted for,” he said. “The time has come for an elected official reaction.” Snyder asked the commission to draft a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), as an official validation for a remedy to Greenbrier County’s urgent need for reliable air service.

Without reliable results from the airline, disgruntled airline customers, some of whom have been stranded in Charlotte, NC, due to a canceled flight, are urged to make their complaints known. If, for example, they bought a non-stop ticket and the airline made stops elsewhere during the flight, then Snyder recommended that they register their complaint with the DOT. A process will be put in motion, imposing deadlines on the airline and forcing Via Airlines to examine the issues and produce answers. In this matter, individual consumers have more power than the county commission, he said.

The commission approved a motion to write a letter to DOT and West Virginia legislators.

In other business:

  • In a separate matter concerning the airport’s master plan, Snyder said he will be working closely with both J. Andrew Hagy, executive director of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development, and Kara Dense, executive director of the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau, on a common goal to generate economic development of the acreage surrounding the airport. Access to water, power, and sewer are already in place, Snyder said.

Snyder also reported he is looking into the on-site tax rates for aircraft storage at the airport to be sure an appropriate tax is being meted out. There are $10 million aircraft using the airport hangers, he said. “We all must share in order to keep the lights on,” he said.

Commission President Woody Hanna agreed, stated that establishing an attractive tax rate coupled with the convenient access in and out of the Greenbrier Valley makes aircraft storage at the airport an obvious win-win.

  • Grant consultant Doug Hylton reported an environmental study for the 6.4 mile section of the Meadow River Trail is still in the hands of CSX and must be completed before CSX releases the property to the county. A $18,771 bid to conduct core samplings at every mile has been received, which, he said, was lower by more than $20,000 than any other bid. The commission approved the request to fund for the study with monies from the county’s arts and recreation account.

Hylton said regarding the damage on the trail as a result of last June’s floods, FEMA has yet to sign off on funding to repair the 50,000 pound metal trestle bridge that fell into the river in the Fayette County portion of the trail. Funding for the repairs to the Greenbrier County portion of the trail is already in place and will be done by Chapman Engineering.

  • Homeland Security and Emergency Management Executive Director Al Whitaker received approval to adopt a Region 4 hazard mitigation plan. Eight properties around the county in Rupert, Charmco, Caldwell and Hines were approved for appraisals for FEMA buyouts at $500 each, not to exceed $4,000. Those costs, Whitaker said, are fully reimbursable with federal funds.
  • The commission approved three revisions on the county’s property purchase agreement with the Roger Boone Family Trust, which the county has proposed to develop as a public recreation facility. The Boone family have requested that both the donated 40 acres, as well as the 100 acres the commission had agreed to purchase for $300,000, are to revert back to the original owners in three years if either of the acreages are not used as recreation areas as proposed by the commission within that time frame. In the case of the 100 acres, the Boones will have the first right to purchase the acreage at the same price paid by the commission. Secondly, the two parties agreed to equally share the cost to survey the property, and, thirdly, the commission wants assurances there is access to the Greenbrier River or at least to the Greenbrier River Trail.

Commissioner Lowell Rose said he didn’t think the time frame to begin developing the property would present a problem. He said the Boone family had previously offered the property to the city of Lewisburg, but the property sat unused or developed for a few years. It was for that reason the family requested the three-year reversion option. The commission approved an amended motion to include the revisions.

  • With the appointment of Joshua Martin as chief deputy of the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Office, a vacancy was created in the department. Sheriff Bruce Sloan recommended the commission approve Evan Marsh Shaffer, a former White Sulphur Springs police officer, to fill that slot. Hanna recused himself from the vote which was 2-0-1, because he is related to Shaffer.
  • Sloan also asked the commission to consider using an internet-based public auction service to dispose of county-owned vehicles to allow a larger bid base to participate. He said on site public auctions will still be offered as well.
  • The Beech Ridge Wind Farm, owned by Invenergy, LLC, requested that the commission draft a letter of support to the Public Service Commission (PSC) for an expansion project in which 22 more turbines are on the agenda for construction. Originally, Invenergy had contracted to build a total of 100 turbines, 67 of which have been completed at this point. The 22 turbines, which are the last to be built on the ridges of Greenbrier and Nicholas counties, have larger blade spans that generate more wattage, and as a result, will eliminate the need for the remaining 11 turbines originally scheduled for construction.