WINTERSVILLE - A meeting was held Tuesday between federal, state and local officials at the Jefferson County Airpark to discuss the runway expansion project.
But local officials already are looking forward to the next improvement - a GPS instrument approach - that they believe will open the airport for even more development.
The Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Department of Development each have contributed a $750,000 grant, with the Jefferson County commissioners kicking in $500,000, to expand the runway.
AIRPORT PLANNING — Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile, right, talked with Matt Cybulski, JobsOhio project manager, left, and Brad Biggs, Ohio Department of Transportation, Office of Jobs and Commerce regional manager, in the terminal at the Jefferson County Airpark on Tuesday. Federal, state and local officials met there to discuss the expansion of the airport’s runway.
-- Mark Law
The meeting was held to discuss how to proceed with the project, from selecting an engineer to contractors.
County Commissioner Tom Gentile said a committee of county and airport officials met prior to the meeting to go over qualifications submitted by prospective engineers. Gentile said six firms submitted qualifications and three were eliminated at the meeting.
Gentile credited U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, with going to the Federal Aviation Administration to get the federal agency to certify the approaches for the expanded runway. The certified approaches are needed by pilots for takeoffs and landings.
Gentile said the runway use has increased in the past year with the oil and gas industry development.
The runway will be expanded from 4,400 feet to 6,000 feet long and from 60 feet to 75 feet wide.
Some corporate jets can't use the existing runway because of insurance requirements for a longer runway.
Brad Biggs, Ohio Department of Transportation, Office of Jobs and Commerce regional manager, said the state and county will pay an equal share as the work progresses, which will result in the county not paying for the project up front. Briggs said the project will be managed by local officials, who will make the decisions on how to proceed.
Gentile said the runway expansion will mainly consist of earth moving and asphalt paving. He noted the runway is scheduled for an asphalt overlay in 2014 or 2015. He asked Johnson for help in getting the FAA to move the asphalt overlay up so it is done right after the runway expansion work is completed.
Johnson said the FAA will be in a good position to make that decision because of the cooperation shown between state and local officials and the benefit for economic development.
"We will certainly get involved in that," Johnson said.
Gentile said the county is in competition with surrounding counties to get oil and gas companies to have headquarters located in the communities.
"This is by far the most advanced aviation facility in the area," Gentile said. "This project has been on our wish list for a long time. We see it as an important economic development component. There has been a quantum leap where the airport came from in the past five years. The community at large is embracing this project."
County Commissioner David Maple said the runway expansion project is "aligned with a well thought out strategy for job growth in the county."
State Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, said, "People clearly have a vision of what this facility can mean to the region."
Also attending the meeting were members of the regional airport authority, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Progress Alliance, Governor's Office of Appalachia, county engineer's department, governor's office and private pilots at the airport.
(Law can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)