STEUBENVILLE - The Regional Airport Authority was asked Monday to consider allowing a fledgling development organization to use the terminal as a temporary staging ground.
Jefferson County Port Authority member Geary Bates told board members they need to get up and running quickly, and to do that they need an office. He said they'd looked at rental spaces closer to the downtown, but the costs were "pretty significant."
In the event it's needed, he asked the airport board to give some thought to allowing them to use the terminal building on a temporary basis.
LOOKING AT POSSIBILITIES — Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile, left, and Geary Bates on Monday raised the possibility of temporarily housing the newly formed port authority at the airport terminal. Gentile and Bates told the airport authority no decisions have been made, but it was “just an option to be considered.”
"It's not going to be a super long-term thing," he added. "We have to get up and running with this ... we have to get an office, we have to get a website, we have to get a phone."
And with 2012 winding down, he said there's some urgency to get things moving.
"The sooner (we act), the better," Bates said, adding that with the recent resignation of Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman, they're looking at transitioning economic development operations to the Port Authority. Looman accepted a regional position with the state's JobsOhio.
Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile, also at Monday's meeting, characterized it as "a heads up that we may consider" requesting space at the terminal building "to see what your input would be."
"I don't see it as being long-term," Gentile added. "Nothing has been decided, we're not throwing anybody out. It's just an option to be considered."
But Airport Authority President Mike Menzel cautioned that before they do anything, they have to get the Federal Aviation Administration's approval.
"I'd want to contact the FAA with the way their stipulations (for terminal use) are, and get it in writing," he said. "That way we'd have it."
Gentile reiterated that it's just an option at this point, stressing that no decisions have been made.
"The biggest thing was just to get the idea out there, the possibility, and work through the mechanics (of it)," Gentile said. "We're just discussing, looking at options."
After the meeting, Bates pointed out the Port Authority meets today.
"Commissioners have the authority to do what they want," he added, saying the group is looking at a transitional plan to get the operation up and running as quickly as possible.
"The port authority can be good for the community," Bates said. "But we've got to get on track ... we've got to get a place for people to work, a website, a phone. Why spend money (to rent space) elsewhere when this is here?"
Gentile, meanwhile, said the county commissioners haven't yet made any funding decisions for the new budget year, and that includes financial support for Progress Alliance. That organization, which has scored numerous business and job development successes over the past 18 months, gets about 52 percent of its funding from the business community and fundraisers, with the remainder coming from local governments, including the county. It will be phased out once the port authority is fully functional.
"We're not at that point of the budget (process) yet," Gentile said. "We've met with all the department heads, heard their requests, but we haven't started putting things together yet. It would be premature to say who gets what at this point."
He said those kinds of decisions "typically come after the first of the year."
"The big challenge for us is that although we've got a little more on one side, we're losing it somewhere else."
Piggyback tax revenues have been consistently higher year over year, giving the county considerably more tax dollars to work with in the new budget year. On the flip side, however, he said health insurance coverage is also going to cost considerably more.
"By and large I think you'll see funding levels similar to last year because of the insurance (costs)," Gentile said. "We probably won't stray far from ... our budget last year."
Gentile, meanwhile, told the airport authority he's "really happy with operations" at the airport, which has benefited tremendously from the shale oil and gas boom.
"I hear planes going in and out of here," he said. "From four years ago when I started coming to these meetings to now, the (increased) amount of operations' activity I hear ... it's great stuff."
The board also recommended that commissioners sign off on hiring Michael Baker Jr. to serve as the engineering consultant for a five-year period and were told that the hangar apron rehabilitation project came in nearly $30,000 under budget. The final tally for that work was $384,000, significantly less than the $414,000 that had been budgeted.
"A lot of it was contingencies they put in there for unknowns," Menzel said. "The biggest was for pavement - they allowed so much, with extra if it was needed, and it wasn't. There were a couple things we ended up not needing."
He said that $30,000 "will be left over for our next grant" to be spent on other projects.