General aviation community meets with Wood County Airport Authority
WILLIAMSTOWN — Members of the general aviation community raised concerns and questions about service, maintenance and development at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Thursday morning during a meeting of the Wood County Airport Authority.
More than 20 pilots, business owners and other interested parties gathered for the authority’s regular meeting in Jerry’s Flyaway Cafe, the airport’s restaurant. They questioned the training provided to airport employees and said customer service was often lacking compared to other airports.
“I’ve heard your comments about service, and that is going to change,” authority President Bill Richardson said. “You’re going to see some improvement there.”
Other issues could take more time — and money — to address, he said.
Richardson encouraged those in attendance to contact local, state and federal officials to request additional funding for the airport.
“Send out a call of duty and we’ll start making calls,” said Denny Harton, a pilot who has a plane at the airport.
Richardson noted contributions from the Wood County Commission have increased in recent years, but an attorney working for the county determined the airport was not eligible for funding they requested from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act allotment. He also said a number of area counties and cities that benefit from the airport’s presence have contributed little or nothing to its operations.
Members of the general aviation community, which includes civilian pilots and owners of personal and corporate aircraft, recently sent a letter to the authority and the County Commission, citing concerns about safety, particularly related to employee training and potential damage to aircraft; infrastructure maintenance; and a perceived lack of communication with previous management.
Some of those in the audience Thursday referenced deteriorating conditions in hangars, saying they should have been addressed a long time ago.
Terry Moore, a former airport manager and member of the authority, acknowledged some work had been delayed over the years because of a lack of funding.
“During my watch, I traded maintenance for survival,” he said. “We did nickels and dimes, little things here and there. … Each manager in succession, with the funds he has available, has been focused on maintaining that infrastructure.”
Glen Kelly, another former manager and member of the authority, pointed to projects completed and started under his watch, including an $8 million runway rehabilitation, a $2.3 million lighting upgrade and two roof repairs for $586,000. An upgrade to the terminal and parking lot repaving with money from federal earmarks secured by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and repairs to a large hangar with funding from the airport and the county are in the works.
“It’s not that we haven’t done it. There’s a lot of infrastructure out here,” Kelly said. “My goal was to improve. We did improve. Do we need a lot more? Yes, we do.”
Joshua Wilson, a representative of the general aviation community, said he feels like there has been a disconnect between airport management and the community, although he praised the efforts of Denise Myers, who took over the job Aug. 1, in reaching out to people.
“We’re just as much at fault for not voicing our concerns as effectively as we could,” Wilson said.
Moore suggested those in attendance form committees and bring concerns to the authority, as well as ways they want to help. Some suggested volunteering to clean up and fix smaller hangars, which Richardson said could be done.
“I think everybody here … wants to see this place succeed,” Wilson said.
Myers said that, being new to the airport, she has had to observe to “see exactly what was going on.”
“And now that I have observed, I can make some educated decisions,” she said.
In the business portion of the meeting, Richardson was re-elected as president, after Moore declined a nomination by Kelly.
“Our new manager has been going to the board president for a lot of operational decisions,” Kelly said, citing Moore’s experience as manager.
Moore thanked Kelly for the nomination and nominated Kelly as secretary/treasurer. Kelly declined.
Following a 4-0 vote, with Wood County Commissioner Bob Tebay absent because of a commission meeting at the same time, Richardson was named president, Tim Flinn vice president and Moore secretary/treasurer.
After two-and-a-half hours in the restaurant, the board voted to go into executive session to discuss contracts.
Evan Bevins can be reached at email@example.com.