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Commissioners question policy for plane fuel

October 19, 2012
By MARK LAW - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County commissioners Thursday addressed several issues at the Jefferson County Airpark, including fuel being purchased by board members and pilots at prices below wholesale.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he contacted the county prosecutor's office, which said the county regional airport authority could set two price levels for the fuel.

The airport board had established a policy on fuel purchases but never voted to implement the policy.

Mike Menzel, county airport authority president, said pilots who house planes in hangars at the airport pay a lower fuel cost than transient pilots.

Gary Folden, airport authority secretary, said the Federal Aviation Administration has looked at the airport authority's policy on fuel prices and agreed it OK to charge pilots based at the airport a lower rate than pilots who fly in and want to purchase gas.

Menzel said wholesale fuel prices changed but airport staff didn't change the amount charged to pilots. He said the revenue generated by the fuel sales was always greater than the wholesale purchase price.

"It certainly is an ethical decision and certainly doesn't look good when (airport authority) board members are getting fuel below cost," Graham said.

County Commissioner David Maple said he wants the commissioners to see a copy of the fuel purchase policy after it is approved.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said pilots can use a fuel purchase card to buy gas after hours. He said there have been some concerns the high-octane fuel is being bought for non-aviation purchases.

Commissioners also authorized the airport authority to buy a security system that will monitor the fuel pumps. The $3,136 security system will be paid for out of the county's computer fund.

Commissioners also were informed seismic surveys on airport land to look for oil and natural gas deposits will be allowed only in non-aviation areas.

A company has been making proposals to property owners in the county to perform the seismic surveys. The airport authority needs the seismic survey before drilling begins and any royalties on production are received.

Commissioners also approved attorney fees for indigent criminal defendants in the amount of $46,502 for October. The county auditor's office reported the fund will be depleted next month, requiring the commissioners to transfer money.

Commissioners were informed the bid opening for the Brilliant booster station and water line project will be extended two weeks until Nov. 8. Shannan Gosbin, county water and sewer department director, said the engineering plans call for directional drilling to install the water lines but some contractors wanting to bid said they want to use trenches. Gosbin said the trenches will be added as an alternate to the bidding documents.

County Engineer James Branagan said work is continuing on designing a new bridge on Goulds Road.

The old bridge was closed more than two years ago, and the county is renting a temporary bridge.

Branagan said the county received $1.5 million in federal funds for the bridge replacement, but he said federal design requirements has slowed the engineering process.

"It is a very difficult bridge to design. We have the alignment set, which may save about $300,000," he said.

Branagan noted the county has had no problems with the temporary bridge.

(Law can be contacted at

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