Port authority plans to work out of airport

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County’s fledgling port authority plans to work out of the airpark, at least for the time being.

At Monday’s meeting, Commissioners Tom Gentile and Dave Maple, joined by the port authority’s Geary Bates, asked the airport authority to seek Federal Aviation Administration approval of their plans to use the airpark space.

Because FAA grant money was used to construct the terminal, special care must be taken in how space there is used: Rooms paid for with FAA money must be available for public use; if they aren’t, the FAA could require the county to pay them the price of the room.

But if all goes as planned, the port authority would pay a nominal $50 monthly rent, which Bates said would be a significant savings. He said they’d checked out several other office spaces, but the owners were asking “$1,500 to $2,000 in monthly rent,” unfurnished, and said there are “so many pluses” of being at the airpark, not least of which is the polished, professional look of the building and amenities.

“It makes sense, economic sense, for the county to use this facility,” Bates added. “It saves $24,000 a year, there are so many pluses, at least until the port authority is up and running.”

Asked by the airport authority’s Earl Muenze if the arrangement would be temporary, Bates said “that’s what we’ve said it is,” while Gentile pointed out they’re “still putting the funding together” for the port authority. The county already has announced plans to give the organization $100,000 for 2013 and is looking for business community involvement, “but we don’t know how much is going to come in, we’re just starting.”

He said it’s a “an opportunity for the county to showcase a wonderful facility.”

“It shows well, if you have someone coming in for meetings,” he said.

Maple said he’d like to have the FAA’s written approval before anything is done, however.

“Personally, I want something better than a phone call,” he said. “I’d like to see something in writing. What I don’t want to do is think we’re getting a $50 deal and then a year or two from now (we owe more money) because the FAA changed its mind.”

The port authority is taking over economic development duties from Progress Alliance, which is in the process of being disbanded. Progress Alliance, based in the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce building on Market Street, has another remaining year on its lease.

In other action, the board accepted the resignation of Solicitor Charles Edwards, involved with the airport authority since 1963, and the retirement of Tom Cucarese. Both actions took effect Dec. 31.

Edwards said he was “deeply gratified to see the airpark’s growth” over the years, adding it had been “quite a ride,” while Cucarese said it had been “rewarding to see the facility grow from a small county airport to what it is today.”