Airport gets extension to respond to lawsuit

WILLIAMSTOWN – Members of the Wood County Airport Authority at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport were updated on the lawsuit filed against the board by Mountaineer Grading during the regular meeting on Tuesday.

“We have not hired an attorney to represent us,” said board president Bill Richardson, a local attorney. “I have contacted the lawyer for Mountaineer Grading and offered to meet to discuss a settlement or arbitration to discuss ways to work out an agreement.”

The lawsuit papers were filed in Wood County Circuit Court on Nov. 26 by Mountaineer Grading claiming breach of contract for phases three and four of the airport’s Runway Area Safety Project. The paperwork also said the airport authority failed to provide “a design free of defects” for several projects within the overall safety project.

The suit is asking for $3 million in payment for the breach of contract and $10 million for allegedly destroying the company.

Airport manager Terry Moore last month said the airport cannot afford an attorney and the Federal Aviation Administration will not fund one.

“I told the lawyer about the airport’s financial situation and they have asked for three years of audited financial statements,” Richardson said. “We are trying to save our limited assets by not hiring our own lawyer and will see what happens.”

Mountaineer Grading cannot take over the airport facility without FAA approval, no matter what outcome the lawsuit has, Moore said.

Earlier in the year, Rifenberg Construction was chosen to complete the creation of a 500-foot safety area on either end of the runway as well as light towers to extend the visual of the runway by 2,400 feet.

The safety project was decreed by the FAA with West Virginia being the first state having completed those at the state’s federally obligated airports.

Mountaineer Grading cut back work several years ago with as few as three workers on site before the company pulled out all together. The airport went into lawyer to lawyer discussions with Mountaineer Grading’s bonding company Travelers Insurance and it was decided the company was in default since it hadn’t been at the site since August 2011.

When the company left, the project was about 95 percent completed with certain navigational aids, including the light towers and electric to run them, not working.

Through the agreement with Travelers Insurance that Mountaineer Grading is liable for the incomplete job, the company agreed to pay a certain amount of money to complete the work.

Moore added the roughly $13.4 million project is almost completed but some things have changed in the FAA’s technology requirements before it can be finished.

In other business:

* The airport saw 520 passengers use the commercial service to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in January, which is up from last year’s 465.

“This is the best number we have seen for January in six years,” Moore said. “It could have been higher, as we had nine cancellations last month, but it wasn’t at all bad.”

The cancellations were because of local weather as well as weather issues in Cleveland and mechanical problems with the planes.

“If we keep up these high enplanements, we will break 8,000 this year,” Moore added.

Last year was the busiest year for the airport with 7,800 enplanements, up from roughly 7,500 passengers on 2011.

Airports that have at least 10,000 enplanements per year receive $1 million in federal Airport Improvement Project funds annually; airports with fewer passengers receive $150,000.

* Moore announced the FAA approved the new 108-page emergency plan for the local airport.

“It is a big deal to get this done because it was daunting to write,” Moore said. “Copies will be distributed to the local responders.”

The basic response, as confirmed with the Waverly Volunteer Fire Department, the Wood County 911 Center and the emergency planner, is to call 911 and all entities will work together to fix the problem, Moore said.