PLEASANT VALLEY — Despite some continued opposition from nearby residents, the Fairmont Airport expansion-and-improvement project continues to go on, according to an airport official.

“Well, we’re ready to go to bid for about a $3 million dollar excavation work and improvements,” Tom Mainella, chairman of the airport’s board and Fairmont city councilmen, said. “Hopefully in a couple months we’ll start moving dirt and be closer to our airport improvement plan.”

Mainella said he doesn’t have a copy of the master plan for the airport and hasn’t seen it for several years, but that the engineers, L. Robert Kimble and Associates, do. They didn’t return a call from the Times West Virginian asking for a copy.

Local experts said the Federal Aviation Administration, which would need to approve the plan, would also have a copy, but FFA representatives didn’t return calls, either.

Meanwhile, the project has been ongoing for several years, mainly because of the time frame for the distribution of federal money.

“It’s been a very long project,” Mainella said. “We get money in increments and we’re already working on our 2007 budget. The 2006 appropriation will provide safety overruns at both ends of the runway, a new parallel taxiway from the hangar and relocation of Robert Stanley Road to the west side of the airport.”

Money for the project, according to Mainella, comes mostly from taxes paid on aviation fuel by commercial carriers and is administered by the FAA.

“The plan was approved, probably three years ago, but the money comes in stages. We received funding in 2004 to buy 6.3 acres along side the Kingmont Road, where we’ll eventually move our large hangars to,” Mainella said.

“This next project in 2006 will be the relocation of overhead utility lines and putting them under ground. We’ve already removed trees. We will be acquiring a small apartment building with two units in it.”

Residents in Pine Lake Estates housing development have generally been opposed to the airport project. Last year, they crowded the Pleasant Valley City Council chambers to express concern about losing their homes to expansion and the danger the low-flying planes could pose to their property.

Some complained to the Times West Virginian that when they contacted the governor’s office for help, Jim Pitrolo, the governor’s legislative director, was appointed to help, even though he had once served on the board that helped develop the airport plans.

In response, Mainella said some in the Pine Lake Estates area are spreading false information.

“Pitrolo resigned from the board when Gov. Manchin appointed him as legislative director,” Mainella said, adding that Pitrolo had been on the board for only about a year. He said the airport project “was already in process. It was already moving when he came on the board.”

Mainella said construction done with this year’s appropriation should begin in a few months.

E-mail Justin McLaughlin at jmclaughlin@timeswv.com.

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