Cumberland Times-News

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March 31, 2013

Potomac Highlands Airport Authority welcomes new members

WILEY FORD, W.Va. — The Potomac Highlands Airport Authority an-nounced that it is welcoming new members and made several changes to its bylaws during a meeting Thursday.

Cumberland Councilman Nick Scarpelli was appointed to the board to replace Lee Fiedler, who resigned via a letter.  

New authority members William Smith IV of Keyser and Leon Hinkle of Fort Ashby were in attendance at the meeting.

Hinkle’s term will expire 2015, and Smith’s in 2014.

Hinkle and Smith are filling former chairman Max White’s and authority member Terry Malone’s positions, respectively.

White and Malone resigned over a disagreement on alleged contaminated fuel during a special meeting.

The authority approved several bylaw changes, one of which allows the board to remove a member by a simple majority vote.

The authority doesn’t have the power to remove ex-officio, or nonvoting, members but has the power to remove regular members, said Rozas Ramon III, the new part-time attorney who investigates legal matters for the authority.

Another change disallows airport employees to be voting members of the authority.

Authority member Gregg Wolff said that, previously, an employee who was also a member of the authority had to be terminated.

Creade Brodie Jr., acting chairman, asked Mona Ridder, executive director of the Mineral County Development Authority, what she thought about the situation.

“Your board member should have never been an employee. That was a conflict of interest from the beginning,” said Ridder.

“I think that would have probably streamlined this whole process the last two years,” said Brodie.  

Member Carlos Santiago said that Robert’s Rules or Order — a handbook that describes how a small organization should handle its procedures — should have been followed during the special meeting in removing a board member.

“For those people who were here the last meeting, I think it’s something that no one should go through again,” said Santiago.

Ramon will review the language in the bylaws and make any necessary changes.

The authority also discussed plans to further its economic future.

Ridder, Matthew Diaz, director of economic development for Allegany County, and Stu Czapski, executive director of the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce, all agreed to meet and discuss the economic direction of the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport.

Ridder said that the airport has a master plan that includes a runway expansion project.

The project, which is slated for completion in 2017, is being completed because of safety reasons and to meet Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

The FAA is funding most of the $59 million runway project.

The project had been delayed because of  FAA funding issues, according to Ridder.

“That funding was restored last spring,” said Ridder. “How long it’s going to continue at the current level is debatable.”  

Airport Manager Ryan Shaffer indicated he has never seen the master plan.

“I can’t imagine how you can go forward with that project without having the original,” said Ridder.

Brodie said that a rewrite of the master plan needs to be done.

“We need to quit looking 50 years out. We need to start looking two years out to what we can make happen now,” said Brodie.

Czapski and Ridder stressed the importance of the runway project.

“We don’t want to lose this runway project,” said Czapski. “We need to fight tooth and nail for that.”

“Once that project is completed you are not going to have any problem getting tenants to this airport,” said Ridder.  

Diaz said that he is looking forward to working with Ridder.

“I think it’s an opportunity for hopefully a new day,” said Diaz. “That we can forge this bistate partnership as it’s set up to be.”

Czapski said that the possibilities of tax advantages for the airport are virtually endless and that the chamber is supportive of the way the authority is structured.

“This airport is a tremendous asset with a lot of potential. Not that things were bad before, but the positive direction you guys are going — we are very supportive of,” said Czapski.

Ridder questioned how many of the authority members read the bistate compact and the related state agreements.

“Those are critical to moving forward,” said Ridder. “The Potomac Highlands Airport Authority could go away tomorrow, but that does not nullify the obligations that were created with those contracts. That could create some issues if we are not careful.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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