By Cassady Rosenblum
According to County Commissioner Mike Rosenau, the state Aeronautics Commission is holding Tucker County “hostage” by insisting the county build and operate a helipad at the Industrial Park, thus making many other uses of the land impossible.
Readers will recall that Industrial Park once belonged to West Virginia Power & Transmission Company, a predecessor of FirstEnergy. During the 1970s, the power company transferred that land to the state Aeronautics Commission, which subsequently transferred it to the Tucker County Commission and Development Authority in the 1990s. Nevertheless, an old covenant remained on the deed stipulating that the land be used as an airport.
Given the Development Authority’s mission to attract businesses to Tucker County and grow its economy, Executive Director Steve Leyh sought this year to get the state to release this covenant, arguing that the state has never shown any interest in building an airport on the land at any point in the past, and did not even seem to know about the deed until the Development Authority brought it to its attention. If the state were to release the covenant on the deed, the county could sell off acres to new businesses, and develop the land as it sees fit. However, at Wednesday’s County Commission meeting, Leyh described the state’s attitude as “uncooperative.”
The Aeronautics Commission is comprised of five governor-appointed officials. According to Leyh, they believe that having a private helipad will help attract business to Tucker County, which Leyh disagreed with strongly. According to Leyh and Rosenau, Tucker County tried to present an alternate solution to the Aeronautics Commission–a helipad at Windwood Resort–but the state refused, saying it was more than five nautical miles away from the Industrial Park. Windwood is six nautical miles from the Industrial Park.
At the core of the controversy is the fact that the state and federal government own much of Tucker County. There is not much available land to build on, making Tucker County unique compared to other counties in the state. The Industrial Park represents 25 acres that can be built on, according to Rosenau, who questioned why the county is overhauling its infrastructure if it can’t offer new companies a place to exist. For the time being, however, the Aeronautics Commission seems convinced a private helipad at the Industrial Park is more important for the future of Tucker County.
In other county commission news, the commissioners voted to approve $50,000 dollars worth of American Rescue Plan money to Hamrick, $16,000 for Davis, and $6,000 for Thomas. More will be allocated once the county receives its second tranche, or portion of money, from the federal government.
Finally, the commissioners also voted to approve new voting locations for the upcoming election in the spring in order to better serve voters with disabilities. Those new locations will be communicated soon to voters. The next County Commission meeting will take place at the Tucker County Courthouse Wednesday, December 1, at 6 p.m.