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Wise delivers grant money to airport

October 02, 2004|By CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Behind him to his right, Gov. Bob Wise's helicopter rested on an extended ramp. Over his left shoulder, construction workers were building the foundation of a new airport terminal.

Wise delivered a large novelty check Friday afternoon for $1.266 million - grant money that Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority members received from the state's Economic Development Grant Committee.

"This is the final piece of a $4 million project," Airport Authority Chairman Rick Wachtel said.

The extended ramp is part of a project under way at the airport, which also includes building a new, two-story terminal. The basement already has been finished and holds electrical equipment, including that needed to control lighting on the runway.

The terminal, which is expected to open next spring, will contain a baggage area, ticketing space, administrative offices, a lobby and a full-service restaurant on the second floor, Wachtel said.

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It also will house items related to the airport's 81-year history, he said.

The novelty check - which had "jobs" written on the memo line - likely will be hung on the restaurant's wall, Wachtel said.

Around a dozen or so jobs could be directly created by the new terminal, Wachtel said.

Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson, said he hopes the new terminal will entice a regional air transport company to offer commuter service to Charleston, W.Va.

Tabb has flown from Charleston to Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C., in 48 minutes. Driving from the Eastern Panhandle to the state capital takes five hours or more, he said.

Daily commuter service could lead to jobs in ticketing, baggage, with car rental companies and for ramp personnel, Wachtel said.

Because of its proximity to larger airports in Washington and Baltimore, Eastern Regional Airport is "one of the key airports on the East Coast," Wise said after the check presentation.

Overall, Economic Development Grant Committee projects throughout the state make up nearly a $1 billion investment, Wise said.

The state gave $215 million in grants, matched by half a billion dollars in private and federal funds. The 50 projects are expected to spur another $250 million in related economic activity, Wise said.

Other local projects that received money included the Martinsburg Roundhouse Authority, which was awarded $2.75 million to build an elevated pedestrian bridge connecting the Caperton Train Station to the Roundhouse complex. Jefferson County Board of Education officials were granted $6 million to help build a second high school.

Wise presented the check to airport, county and city officials.

In his 20 years on the Airport Authority, Wachtel said neither the Berkeley County Commissioners nor Martinsburg City Council members have ever denied an airport funding request.

Wachtel said the new terminal could help attract more private and corporate aircraft to use the airport. The existing building, a squat one-story brick building, is not representative of the airport, which has the latest technology and the same radar system that is in place at Dulles, Wachtel said.

The existing building will be torn down. "Just as fast as we can," Wachtel said.

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