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Commissioners make Bates namesake of airpark

Andrew Grimm - The Jefferson County commissioners presented Geary Bates, original board member of Jefferson County Regional Airport Authority, with a resolution renaming the Jefferson County Airpark the Geary A. Bates Jefferson County Airpark. Bates has been a board member since its inception in 1992 and has served in many roles at the facility.

STEUBENVILLE – Officially on the agenda to discuss the budget and an ongoing hangar project at the Jefferson County Airpark, Geary Bates got quite the surprise during Thursday’s meeting of the Jefferson County commissioners.

Bates, who is an original board member of the county Regional Airport Authority and has been a part of every aspect of the airpark from the beginning, was presented with a resolution to rename the airpark in his honor, the Geary A. Bates Jefferson County Airpark.

“I don’t know what to say,” a visibly moved Bates said. “I’m blown away.”

The resolution, which was read by Commissioner Tony Morelli to an audience that included airpark staff and Bates’ family members, praised his years of service. The meeting was held in the third floor courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Michelle Miller to allow room for those in attendance to distance.

“Geary A. Bates led and participated in almost every airport capital improvement since the airport’s inception, including performing much of the work himself, exemplifying unparalleled volunteer work ethic for community benefit,” the resolution stated.

“It was unanimous, when I talked to my fellow commissioners, it was a no-brainer,” Morelli said of naming the airport after Bates.

“Nobody had to think about it, it is absolutely something deserved. You can see here the support you have. I probably spoke to 15 people over the last few weeks with the idea, and everybody immediately said nobody deserves it more than Bates.

“What (the airport) has become is definitely a hidden marvel. I don’t know if people know how nice of an airport we have. I firmly believe one of these days that’s going to pay off. We’re going to get that business that needs that airport. I want to thank (Bates), the rest of the trustees and (airpark manager) Brad (Thaxton) for all of the work that’s been done there.”

Commissioner Thomas Graham said approving the resolution was an “honor.”

“Good things don’t just happen, they happen because of great people – and that’s what Geary Bates is,” he said. “This airport wouldn’t be what it is today if weren’t for his drive and dedication, his motivation. He’s come to the commissioners and made his voice known and fought for what he though was right.

“It’s always been a pleasure to interact with Geary and get things done for that airport.”

Commissioner Dave Maple offered that Bates brings a unique attitude to the airport board.

“It’s been an honor to work with Geary, it’s been fun to work with Geary,” he said. “He brings a side of energy to what government lacks sometimes. I know that frustrates him sometimes, but there’s one thing I’ve always said about Geary, I called him a catalyst. If were not for his energy and his input, that airport would not be what it is today, and I don’t think there is anyone in this room that would doubt that.

“This man did more for that airport, in my experience, than anyone.”

Brandon Reese, president of the airport authority board, credited Bates for their years of work together to improve the airport.

“I wouldn’t trade (working with Bates) for anything,” he said. “On a personal note, I’ve learned so much from this man. He’s a straight dealer. There are no tricks played by Geary Bates, he tells you how it is and sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s a little bit abrasive, but he’s a straight dealer – and that’s something that is kind of lost in today’s society.

“I build documents and paragraphs that help build airports, Geary Bates builds runways, he builds buildings, he builds real things that make airports. We see the world from a different perspective, but we have worked together so well, and I admire all the things that he’s done so much, there could be no other man, and there’s been no other man in my life, that could do all the things that Geary Bates does.

“He always got the job done, that’s why the airport has his name now.”

Former Commissioner Tom Gentile also made an appearance to offer his praise of Bates.

“Twelve years ago, we had a list of things that were a dream – a 5,000-foot runway, over a certain amount of operations, over a certain amount of fuel sales – these were goals that were way out there, they were dreams,” Gentile said. “Not only have we met every one of those goals through (Bates’) hard work, and cooperation with (the board members) over the years, we have exceeded those goals, moved beyond them and set new goals.

“It’s just amazing when people work together, what can be done.”

The commissioners also approved a pair of board appointments.

Morelli used his nomination for the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Planning Commission to appoint Michael Petrella, which he said was highlighting the importance of getting the younger generation active.

“He’s what I call the next generation,” Morelli said. “There are a lot of young people in this county, male and female, that do have an interest in getting involved. One thing you’ll find out, you’ll see from me as these things move forward – it’s important we get the best person of course – but I think, and I’m betting that my fellow commissioners agree, that we need to get the younger generation involved in our county. Mike Petrella fits that model.”

Maple appointed Mike Gill, president of A.R.M. USA Inc., to the Jefferson County Port Authority board. Gill sat in on the port authority’s meeting Wednesday, and his appointment will give the port authority a full, nine-member board.

County maintenance supervisor Patrick Boyles appeared to discuss the completion of the cooling tower project at the Jefferson County Justice Center and updates to the county recorder’s office.

The project at the justice center did not use the $10,000 allowance fund, so that money was returned to the county. Repairs to a section of the recently replaced roof from damage caused by equipment were also completed to what Boyles said was acceptable.

New recorder Scott Renforth joined the meeting to discuss his plans for updates at the office and funding processes were clarified.

The office will be getting desks and chairs to better allow distancing for a cost of $2,000 as well as an approval for Boyles to seek quotes for paint and carpet for the office.

The commissioners also signed a lease agreement for county Court No. 3 in Dillonvale to remain in its current location.

The commissioners also held a public budget hearing in their office following the regular meeting.

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