The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 5, 2012

Airport property sale gets green light

A 425-acre tract of land, considered of no use to either the county or for flight purposes, is headed for the auction block to generate money for a proposed virtual control tower at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Raleigh County Commission agreed to sell the hilly property located between the airport and an industrial park.

“We’re hoping they get a buyer,” said Commissioner Pat Reed, who sits on the Raleigh County Airport Authority.

Just how much the land is worth wasn’t known immediately, but Reed said it would be appraised before any potential buyers are approached.

Last month, the authority agreed to put $50,000 into escrow to finance the next round of research by Quadrex Aviation, LLC, of Melbourne, Fla. Eventually, the tower project, which entails a computer-driven means of informing departing and incoming pilots, will run about $3 million.

“This is just an asset that’s just laying out there,” county attorney Bill Roop said of the acreage.

“It will never be developed by the county or the airport. The airport has no use for it.”

Months ago, the authority paid $25,000 to Quadrex to launch initial research into the high-tech project, which would replace the traditional, manned control towers. After voting to take the second step in November, the authority hopes to attract the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration and a 90 percent match with federal dollars.

Commissioners were updated on the county’s return to the West Virginia Counties Risk Pool after a one-year absence by its director of operations, Steve Rawlings.

Mercer County is the latest to join, raising the total to 39 counties, along with 70 authorities, including the Raleigh County Recreation Authority, Rawlings noted.

Raleigh County became the 25th to join, four years ago.

“Since then, we have grown significantly,” Rawlings said.

“We collected about $1.5 million this year in workers compensation, which is really what drives a lot of that significant growth. It has done really well in the loss ratio. And that has to do with controls the importance that individuals see about providing services to the commission which they serve. The county commission and authorities do continue to provide good solid services that have a focus on safety and effective programs.”

Rawlings said Raleigh’s worker compensation losses have risen somewhat, although its lone claim was for an individual pinned between a vehicle.

“The prognosis looks pretty solid,” he said.

“We should be OK in the long run. Those are going to happen, unfortunately, with law enforcement getting in (vehicles) and dealing with suspects. Unfortunately, they have a potential to be injured in a variety of different ways.”

Reed was assured that the risk pool would cover the county facing a lawsuit over the actions of a law enforcement official.

“If you’re talking about an individual filing suit because of roughness, or false arrest, there are no exclusions for that,” Rawlings added.

In other business, the commission awarded a $104,422.70 to Lewis Lilly Contracting of Beaver to install a new roof on the Campbell Building, facing a major overhaul so it can be re-occupied by the prosecuting attorney’s office.

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