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Authority says delay won't hinder airport terminal plans

Members of the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority are optimistic that plans for a new $2.6 million terminal will g

Members of the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority are optimistic that plans for a new $2.6 million terminal will g

December 05, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Neither foul weather nor a tenuous funding situation should hinder construction of a new terminal at Eastern Regional Airport outside Martinsburg, officials say.

At their meeting Wednesday morning, members of the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority discussed the proposed $2.6 million terminal, which will be built in part with a $1 million grant from the state Economic Development Grant Committee.

If and when the money from that grant, and others like it awarded around the state, will be available is unknown.

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A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the grant process is under way in Charleston, W.Va. The judge hearing the case, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King, has not indicated when he might rule on the matter.

Because of the uncertainty, the low bidder for the terminal project, Martinsburg-based W. Harley Miller Contractors Inc., has extended its bid another 90 days, Airport Authority Chairman Rick Wachtel said.

Even winter weather should not be a problem, Wachtel said, since officials with the airport and the adjacent Air National Guard base have equipment to remove snow.

As expected, the grant will not cover all construction costs for the terminal. Another $250,000 to $260,000 will be needed, Wachtel said.

He said the Airport Authority might receive an enhancement grant from the Department of Transportation since the terminal not only will expand transportation opportunities in the area, but will include a museum.

If airport officials do not receive that grant, they might be able to secure one from the state Aeronautics Commission, Wachtel said. The authority also could float a bond or, in what Wachtel called a worst-case scenario, borrow the money and pay it off through a long-term loan.

In the museum, airport officials might include portions of a former hangar, along with artifacts and photographs now housed in basements and attics, Wachtel said.

"There's a lot of history here that people don't realize," Wachtel said.

The airport was little more than a grass field in a cow pasture when it was built during World War I, Wachtel said. During World War II, the improved airport was used by planes carrying injured troops to what is now the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Today, the airport has a 7,000-foot prime runway, and a 5,000-foot crosswind runway. It can handle one of the world's largest aircraft, a military C-5 jet.

One portion of the proposed terminal, a basement, is already finished. Airport officials built the basement to house high-voltage switch gears that control airfield lighting, Wachtel said.

Another $600,000 committed by the Federal Aviation Authority will go toward terminal costs, but can be used only for certain areas, including baggage, ticketing and a lobby. It would not cover costs needed for offices or a restaurant, Wachtel said.

"For a little rural airport, it was fine," Wachtel said of the current terminal, adding that now it is too small.

Wachtel said he hopes to bring commuter service, which was halted years ago, back to the airport. He said he specifically hopes flights to Charleston can be offered.

Wachtel said the terminal is designed to be used by members of the community. Civic groups could use its conference room and weddings could be held there, he said.

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