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"W. Virginia airport authority faces loss of military revenue"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Airport Authority faces loss of revenue
Latest Guard Bureau joint-use agreement would pay $1 a year for next five
By John McVey
The Martinsburg (WV) Journal-News

MARTINSBURG - Four months after writing to the National Guard Bureau, the
Eastern Regional Airport Authority has gotten a response to its joint-use
agreement offer, but the NGB counteroffer was not exactly what Airport
Authority officials were expecting.
The National Guard Bureau is the federal agency that, among other things,
handles contracts with civilian airports, like the Eastern Regional Airport,
for the use of their facilities by National Guard units like the West
Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing.
However, the 167th is not involved in the negotiations, and officials have
emphasized repeatedly that the relationship between the Airport Authority
and the 167th is very good.
The Airport Authority had a three-year agreement with the NGB, which expired
June 30, that paid the authority $45,000 a year. That is about 18 percent of
the Airport Authority's total operating budget, officials have said.
NGB's new offer at that time would have paid the authority $45,000 the first
year of a five-year agreement and over the course of the agreement, the
payment would have decreased each year until it was reduced to $1 for the
fifth year.
Airport Authority members rejected this offer earlier this year on a split
vote. Col. James Reuss, retired, voted to accept the offer.
Authority members also hired Jeff Bubar with the Chapman Technical Group,
with offices in Martinsburg, to negotiate the joint-use agreement.
The Airport Authority sent a counter proposal to NGB on July 29.
"The National Guard Bureau doesn't agree with our position," Rick Wachtel,
chairman of the Airport Authority, told authority members Tuesday at their
monthly meeting. "Their counter offer is much less money."
That was an understatement. The latest offer from Col. Peter Tunison, chief
of U.S. Air Force's asset management division, is for $1 each year of the
five-year agreement.
"The total value of operational services provided by the ANG is in excess of
(about $2.8 million) per annum, to include snow removal, Air Traffic Control
expenses and Crash/Fire/Rescue Protection," Tunison wrote to the Airport
Authority in a letter dated Nov. 28. "(U.S. code) allows us to validate
payments only for required services therefore with the allowable offset fees
being over 100 (percent) of the costs above, compensation to the Airport
using the data would be payment of funds beyond any known (Air Force)
requirement and therefore I can no longer support our previous offer. ANG
proposes a nominal fee of ($1) paid annually in addition to the operational
services ANG provides."
Wachtel said Tuesday that U.S Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's office is making
inquiries into the situation and that Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, adjutant
general of the West Virginia National Guard, wants to meet with the Airport
Authority to discuss the situation.
Wachtel added that Bubar has sent a letter to the Federal Aviation
Administration regarding the situation.
"NGB has one set of guidelines and the FAA has one set of guidelines, and
they are vastly different," Wachtel said. "We don't need all the services
the ANG provides to operate, like the tower, but it's nice to have them."
In the meantime, the Airport Authority has not gotten any income from NGB
since the end of June. Its bank account was down to about $8,600 on Tuesday.

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