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Nearly Three Years after Initial Discussion, Property Transfer Between City and Airport Moving Forward

By Jeff Toquinto on April 21, 2017 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Rome, it’s been said, wasn’t built in a day. Apparently, arranging a transfer of property from the North Central West Virginia Airport to Bridgeport if it involves the FAA can’t be done in a day either.
 
In fact, it likely won’t be done in three years.
 
A city proposal to acquire land below the airport and near the entrance to the Bridgeport Recreation Complex that was first publicly discussed in May of 2014 will take a big step toward actually happening on Monday. It actually could be the second big step in less than week after years of trying to arrange a transfer of property.
 
The land in question is the roughly five acres situated on the opposite side of the Rec Complex’s entrance on Route 131. The property has old silos and several other dysfunctional buildings along with scrap material. The airport, outside of rental car companies using a building as a wash bay, has had little use for the land.
 
Because of a new for land by the city for a few specific issues and due to the fact the blighted property was an eyesore for those visiting the city for events at the Recreation Complex, the city and the airport worked together to strike a deal. On Wednesday, the Benedum Airport Authority – the airport’s governing body – approved the deal. Monday, Bridgeport City Council will be asked to consider the same.
 
“The agreement, for now, doesn’t commit either to party to anything other than the intent to purchase the property,” said City Manager Kim Haws. “There are still items that need to be covered before this can move forward including an environmental study and FAA approval and I believe some survey work.”
 
Authority President Ron Watson concurred with that Wednesday.
 
“The agreement is in order. We still have to wait on a few things, particularly FAA approval,” said Watson.
 
The FAA plays heavily in the entire situation involving the land transfer since it is airport property. Initially, the city wanted to lease the property and there would be a revisionary clause that would allow the airport to take ownership of the land again in the event it was ever needed. The FAA shot it down.
 
Watson, Authority member Mike Romano and Airport Engineer Chad Biller all voiced their frustration with the process that saw the FAA refuse to do a lease deal and instead opt for the land to be sold. The price, through appraisal, will be $248,000.
 
“I think we’d have to get you involved and our entire congressional delegation involved if you want to try to convince the FAA,” Biller told Romano, who also serves as a state senator. Biller and others didn’t seem optimistic that even using that approach would work.
 
If Council approves the agreement and all other hoops are cleared, the property will eventually go to the city. The site, which will see many buildings demolished after Biller said the State Historic Preservation Office gave its okay, will serve multiple purposes.
 
The city has been looking for property to purchase for six to seven years for a few purposes and this works for those purposes and others,” said Haws.
 
The site will likely include a storage area for at least one year’s worth of salt to treat roads. Haws pointed to 2015 when winter weather was so bad that the city nearly ran out of material to treat roads and it wasn’t available for purchase due to the demand.  Storage facilities will also be built to house snow equipment and other items from Bridgeport’s Public Works Department as well as housing items utilized at the Rec Complex.
 
“We can meet those storage needs there and others as they arise or we may not have thought about,” said Haws.
 
The area will also include additional parking. While not needed often, several events in recent years have seen the need for shuttle buses to be used due to the number of attendees at events. Spillover parking at the airport, if it ever became necessary, could also come into play.
 
Haws said it will also eliminate an eyesore.
 
“We’ve always been concerned since the opening of the complex the impression given by visitors to see that area. We’ve wanted to improve the look of the area and make the property functional and if this goes through we’ll be able to do just that,” said Haws.
 
Editor's Note: City Manager Kim Haws addressed the Airport Authority in May of 2014 on potentially acquiring airport property, while Benedum Airport Authority President Ron Watson listened to discussion on the matter Wednesday - nearly three years later. NCWV Airport Director Rick Rock is shown below at the site that's become an eyesore along Route 131.


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