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Martinsburg airport board balks at company’s offer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — After members of the Eastern Regional Airport Authority accepted a $250,000 offer from Inter-Modal Holding LLC of Steubenville, Ohio, in May, the chairman of the Airport Authority said he rejected another offer of $18,000 from the company.

Inter-Modal Holding and Drakon Technologies presented members of the Airport Authority with a cashier’s check for $250,000 in early May, which Rick Wachtel, chairman of the Airport Authority, said at the time was offered “with no strings attached.”

However, at Tuesday’s Airport Authority meeting, Wachtel said the authority was offered an additional $18,000 from IMH for landing fees, which he did not accept.

“They offered to pay a landing fee of $450 for each landing based on fees at BWI and Dulles. They said they estimated they’ll be here 40 times in May,” Wachtel said. “I told them I couldn’t accept that $18,000 and that the Airport Authority would have to meet to discuss it.”

In the Airport Authority’s Aircraft Landing Fees schedule, which became effective July 1, 2014, aircraft of 100,000 pounds or more are currently charged $62.50 per landing. Aircraft weighing less than 6,500 pounds are not charged a landing fee under the same fee schedule, and aircraft weighing up to 12,499 pounds are charged $20 to land.

The authority’s attorney, Kin Sayre, said he was concerned that IMH wanted to pay landing fees at more than seven times the maximum rate at the Eastern Regional Airport.

“It’s concerning when someone wants to keep giving you money and you don’t know why. We have published rates, and I’m concerned that they want to pay more,” Sayre said. “We can’t take that amount when the published fees are not that.”

Dennis Barron said he is also concerned about the legitimacy of IMH’s offers, and he said he wants to know more clearly what, if anything, IMH is expecting from the airport.

“I don’t want us to become a money laundering operation. We need to step back and ask what our relationship with this company is going to be. There’s some ulterior motive to all this money they’re giving us, and I want to know if this is legitimate,” Barron said.

Sayre said the only way IMH’s $18,000 could be accepted by the Airport Authority would be if IMH broke down the funding by item. He said a portion could be used for landing fees-at the rates the authority has in place-and the rest could be called a donation.

Daryl Bryarly said he could picture a future scenario in which the Airport Authority would become dependent on funding from IMH.

“There’s a downside if we get used to accepting this money,” Bryarly said. “We could see a day where they (IMH) expect something from us or they’ll cut us off. I don’t want to depend on this money. Everyone’s assuming there’s strings attached, so there probably are.”

Dan Dulyea said when IMH gave the $250,000, they said the donation would be for building infrastructure at the airport.

In response to Dulyea, Wachtel said he was under the same impression, that the $250,000 was intended for use as engineering fees, but he said he did not know that as fact.

“Our relationship with Inter-Modal can be addressed in bite-size chunks by addressing issues like landing fees. We say we’ll take their money based on our landing fee structure and not take any more than that. We can watch our backs and still accept some of this money,” Jared Esselman said.

In early May, Rod Kreie, IMH finance officer, said the Eastern Regional Airport would be involved in a trade corridor between San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Kreie said IMH and partner Drakon Technologies in Mexico will invest a total of $50 million to establish the trade corridor.

Earlier this month, Kreie said the trade corridor project, which includes construction at the airport, would be phased in over the next five years, and could bring 500 jobs to the area.

At Tuesday’s meeting Wachtel appointed an Inter-Modal Project Committee consisting of Wachtel, Barron, P.J. Orsini, Jason Barrett, Tana Burkhart and Steve Cox.

Wachtel said representatives from Inter-Modal would be attending the Airport Authority’s next meeting on June 7, and he said that meeting would be the time for the authority members to ask questions.

“There’s a lot of this we don’t know, and very little in writing. We need to get a whole lot more of this in writing,” he said. “For now, they haven’t asked us to do anything but take the money.”

-Staff writer Mary Stortstrom can be reached at 304-263-8931 ext. 138 or www.twitter.com/mstortstromJN.

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