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Benedum law brings mixed opinions

by Nora Edinger

REGIONAL EDITOR

BRIDGEPORT -- Opinions are mixed as to how well the transition to a restructured Benedum Airport Authority will go.

Two key players who have sparred since the bill passed each predicted clear skies ahead Thursday -- just hours after Gov. Bob Wise signed the measure into law.

Del. Barbara Ann Warner, D-Harrison, was elated the governor had signed on.

"I'm glad that the county commission has accepted this and will begin to work with the new members," said Warner, one of four bill sponsors.

Authority President Roger Diaz said earlier this week he will cooperate with the new members. Diaz, also a Harrison commissioner, had hotly opposed the measure, which removes most appointment-making authority from the Harrison and Marion county commissions. The counties co-own the airport.

Other views

Kim Haws -- who will join the authority in his role as Bridgeport city manager -- said he also foresees a spirit of cooperation. He said it is about time the city gets a chance to cooperate in a voting role.

"I've always believed that increased representation by the stakeholders in that airport is going to benefit the entire operation," Haws said. "The city certainly needs to work with the airport on zoning issues."

Jim Sago, a Marion commissioner who is on the authority, said he still sees the action as a slap in the face.

"I'm going to try to do what's right, but I just don't have a good feeling," Sago said.

An area travel expert believes the expanded representation may only usher in an era of new controversy.

"There will be a lot of in-fighting on the new board," said Geoff Millstone, owner of Clarksburg Travel Service. "It's just a shame."

Millstone has been publicly critical of the authority, especially its recent struggles with maintaining viable commuter service. But he said the board was doing well under Diaz's leadership.

He believes the addition of Bridgeport to the players will manifest itself in continued tension as that city and Clarksburg vie for prominence.

The transition

Diaz said the existing authority will meet 3 p.m. Tuesday at the airport. He anticipates the board will change its bylaws to allow one more meeting prior to the July 1 membership change.

He said county appointments to the new board will also be considered soon and will most likely include two commissioners.

The new authority will have 11 members. Each commission will make two appointments.

Sago did not know when Marion will make its appointments.

Other appointments will include two made by the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex plus its executive director. That federally funded agency markets the airport.

Jim Skidmore, director of Mid-Atlantic, was not available for comment.

Other automatic appointments will include a representative from the state Council for Community and Economic Development, the state transportation secretary, the Bridgeport city manager and the president of Fairmont State College.

Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at nedinger@exponent-telegram.com.

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