By JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
VARNEY — Mingo County’s new airport has officially been approved for opening by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Gary Stepp, Chairman of the Mingo County Airport Authority, spoke to the Mingo County Commission about the new facility, which has been called the Mingo County Air Transportation Park, but will be renamed the Appalachia Regional Airport.
The official opening is slated for June 26.
However, Stepp explained that at this time the landing strip and tie down are the only services available. He said a potential investor wanted to fly to Mingo County. Stepp contacted the FAA and got permission for the airport to be used.
Stepp told the Daily News an additional $3 million is needed for an administrative building, hangers and a fuel farm at the new airport.
“The Airport Authority is in the process of completing and submitting applications for Economic Development Authority and USDA grants and bank loans to install a fuel system, a terminal building and hangers,” Stepp said.
“We get $150,000 each year from the FAA,” Stepp said. “But that money can’t be used for debt service, as it is not guaranteed. And fuel sales and hangar rent won’t give us the money we need.”
Stepp told the MCC the Airport Authority needs $15,000 for a feasibility study. The MCC agreed to supply funds for the study.
The airport is located on an 800-acre post mine land site, and is the result of a public/private partnership between the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA) and Alpha Natural Resources.
Steve Kominar, Executive Director of MCRA, said he was going to meet with the Finance Committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates for $7 million to extend water and sewage to the new airport.
“That will be a hard thing to get, 100 percent grant money and not loan,” Kominar said. “If we can’t obtain that from the Finance Committee, maybe we will be able to get it from the Governor’s contingency fund.
“The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority is proud to have been a part of this true post mine land use project, from the beginning of construction, all the way through to last week’s official opening,”, Kominar said. “This is a prime example of how public/private partnerships leverage economic development opportunities, and the MCRA would like to, again, recognize the invaluable contributions to this project by all of those partners who made this airport a reality.”
MCRA Deputy Director Leasha Johnson said the airport is part of the progress Mingo County has made.
“The official opening of the Mingo County Air Transportation Park marks yet another step forward in the transformation of our rural economy into one with prosperous diversification opportunities,” Johnson said. “Looking ahead, we plan to work diligently with the Airport Authority to recruit new business and industry to the air transportation park and to capitalize on the diversification opportunities that lie before us.“
Johnson said the airport is the result of the long term vision of MCRA’s late executive director, Mike Whitt, who died last year.
“Mike Whitt’s vision 20 years ago to create useable land on post-mined sites was set into place through the implementation of our Land Use Master Plan, and this project was actually Mingo County’s very first to be permitted under the Master Plan legislation,” Johnson said. “It was tremendous vision, and today, it’s a tremendous reality.”