MARTINSBURG, W.Va. —It costs about $220,000 a year to run the civilian side of the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, money that comes from hangar rentals and fees, and from the governments of Berkeley County and Martinsburg, and the federal government.
Much of the land at the sprawling Shepherd Field is leased to the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard for its fleet of 11 giant C-5A cargo planes.
But authority officials were notified recently that the bureau only will be paying $1 a year beginning in the new fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.
Authority President Richard Wachtel and Airport Manager William Walkup normally go before the Berkeley County Council at budget time to ask for a renewal of its annual $37,000 annual appropriation. This year, they’re asking for $49,000 to make up the loss from the government pullback.
Several major businesses leasing space at the airport, including a Polo Ralph Lauren distribution center and an airport restaurant, either went bankrupt or went out of business, Wachtel said.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve been on the board since it was created in 1982,” Wachtel said.
He was named chairman in 1988.
Walkup told the council members Monday that he has made repeated phone calls and sent emails to National Guard Bureau officials, who have not responded.
“We haven’t heard anything back in four months,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has promised to send “a strong note of objection” on the authority’s behalf, he said.
There’s been no reply yet, but Walkup said he’s hoping the bureau will reverse its decision and continue the joint-use agreement as it was.
Council President William L. Stubblefield asked Wachtel and Walkup to come back in a couple of weeks for more discussion.
The federal government spent more than $280 million converting the air base to handle C-5A aircraft, including extending the runway, building a new control tower and flight simulator facility, expanding hangars and fuel storage.
The C-5As replaced smaller C-130 Hercules cargo planes at the base in 2007.