County seeks airport improvement amid FAA questions

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Commissioners gathered Thursday with a Delta Airport Consultants representative to discuss the potential for building a new airport terminal at the Gallia-Meigs Regional Airport and then held a phone conference with the Federal Aviation Administration about grant initiatives to explore funding options.

According to Commissioner David Smith, the airport has been utilized as an economic development tool for the county and by several area business over the years, including GKN Sinter Metals, Love’s Travel Stops and often business executives visiting the county. Ohio Gov. James Rhodes utilized the airport to investigate the Silver Bridge Collapse of 1967.

“You know a lot of times our terminal is the first impression people get of Gallia County,” said Smith. “We’d like to make something nicer and more up-to-date and that would go along with our new runway we built a few years ago.”

The county utilized a $1 million grant from the FAA to rehabilitate its runway which had its final construction inspection in March 2016.

Airport hangar tenants approached the commissioners in October of last year with concerns about airport maintenance, hangar rent and new rules being implemented at the facility. Some tenants alleged abuses by commissioners of grant agreements as well as other issues. Tenants, one being a former FAA air traffic controller, claimed that if commissioners had been found to be in violation of grant agreements, it could stop future grant dollar opportunities. Local Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association representatives have also sent letters to commissioners about similar issues.

Since that time, complaints issued by the same group of tenants to the FAA have resulted in three letters, one from the FFA, another as response from the commissioners, and a third as another response from the FAA. The first letter encapsulated concerns by the tenants in formalized rhetoric to the commissioners. The commissioners have responded by saying that much of airport maintenance concerns were difficult to address due to lack of resources by being a rural facility, among other explanations. Commissioners claimed that new rules were being instituted at the airport to address concerns with reported vandalism and theft of fuel. The second FAA letter has asked the commissioners to provide documentation to refute claims as well display the airport is being maintained to grant agreement standards.

Smith said the commissioners intended to reply with full cooperation by a July deadline with the appropriate records requested by the FAA.

Smith is a pilot of over 30 years and a hanger tenant of the airport. He has at times stepped back from decisions made by commissioners, he says, to remain impartial. However, he also has said that as a commissioner it is his duty to oversee the airport’s continual growth and use as a tool for Gallia’s future.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright