Cabell Commission Approves Robert Newlon Airport Litigation Resolutions | New
HUNTINGTON – The Cabell County commission on Thursday approved two resolutions to advance the dispute over the ownership of Robert Newlon Airport near Lesage.
The first resolution seeks to shut down two businesses on the property which the commission says are operating illegally and without approval.
“West Virginia Skydivers Inc. illegally operates an uninsured skydiving business on Commission property without any subletting with the Cabell County Airport Authority and without Commission approval,” the resolution reads. “The illegal operation of an uninsured and unapproved skydiving business on Commission property poses a significant liability risk to the county and its taxpayers. “
The resolution goes on to say that Pier One Landing, which opened a week ago, illegally operates a paddleboard business without subletting or approval and also poses significant liability risk.
The second resolution states that the 2017 sublet that the Cabell County Airport Authority has with Robert Newlon Airport Inc. is illegal and invalid because it did not receive commission approval. He is asking that the property, which is managed by Fly In Cafe owner Carl Bailey, be transferred to the county, including the improvements.
Then he seeks to dissolve the authority and terminate the lease that the commission has with them regarding the property.
The resolutions were passed 2-1, with Commission Chairman Jim Morgan and Commissioner Nancy Cartmill voting for them and Commissioner Kelli Sobonya voting against both.
Sobonya wanted to amend the first resolution to remove the new Pier One business. However, her motion died after no commissioner seconded it.
The same thing happened with the second resolution. Sobonya wanted to modify the last paragraph which calls for the dissolution of the Airport Authority. This motion also died after not getting a second.
Bailey spoke at the meeting and said Pier One Landing had nothing to do with the airport.
“Pier One Landing has never been high before,” he said. “This business has absolutely nothing to do with this airport, so I’m curious why you are doing this. … Why do you do that?”
Having received no response, he began to defend the parachuting operations. Bailey said the skydiving had been taking place on the property for years and there had been no accidents or injuries.
“The regulations state that prior approval must be obtained from the airport management, which is me, to conduct airdrop operations over the airport,” he said. “Absolutely, you have the right to parachute here.”
Bailey also cited other examples of events taking place on public domain that could create a liability risk for the county.
“Why don’t the litigation start against the 4-H camp here?” ” He asked. “They go up the Guyandotte River and kayak. These children are using our taxpayer’s money and there is also a risk there.
He cited other examples such as the BASE jumping on bridge day at New River Gorge, public pools, playground equipment on Ohio River County property, and biking around town.
“Are we going to stop cycling because someone might get injured on a county road and go after the county?” ” He asked. “Why not just do away with Camden Park, the whitewater rafting in the state of West Virginia, because people take risks there every day?” “
Bailey cited the county selling property for far less than its appraised value, other agencies that have developed or built on public property and other liability risks for the county.
“You sold a property to Ona worth $ 1.78 million for $ 72,000 and it was recorded in December,” he said.
Chad Nelson, county administrator for planning grants and permits, later clarified that the property had been auctioned for $ 5,000 above the minimum bid.
Morgan said the county made a generous offer to sell the property to Bailey for $ 200,000. The commission also extended a payment plan offer for the balance of $ 70,000 between Bailey’s offer of $ 130,000 and the price of $ 200,000.
Sobonya suggested that Bailey look to the 7,000 people who signed a petition he had previously presented to the committee.
“If each person contributed $ 10 to a GoFundMe page, Mr. Bailey would have the $ 70,000 he needs,” she said. “I’ll be the first to donate $ 10. “
Morgan also responded to Bailey.
“For at least six months we have said individually that what you are doing could be considered an attraction,” Morgan said. “You are operating it on a property for which you pay no property taxes, minimum rent … no cash … insurance that you have, we don’t think it is adequate to protect the citizens of Cabell County against prosecution. The businesses that you started, you didn’t have approval from the Cabell County Airport Authority, which should have gotten it from the commission, so these businesses are operating on county property without authorization, and the last connects the airport to Pier One. There has been no prior approval of this, and at this point the county wants to withdraw from airport operations. We have, in my opinion, made all reasonable efforts to allow you to purchase this to protect your interests and the $ 800,000 that you state you have over a period of time invested in this … the property itself is valued at 270 $ 000 and is valued at $ 160,000. We arrived at a figure of $ 200,000, which cost the county. “
Bailey said the county paid $ 50,000 and the remaining $ 150,000 was from a grant.
Bailey said it wasn’t about the money.
“I shouldn’t have to give you $ 200,000,” he said. “I have a lease with you and you should be honorable people. You should recognize what your predecessors did.
Bailey publicly made another offer of $ 161,700, but the commission made no comment on it and took no action.
David Clark, president of the Airport Authority, said the litigation resolutions amounted to action by the county against himself.
“The county commission is going to sue itself and the airport authority, which by law is part of the Cabell County commission,” Clark said. “The leases were established by the county attorney, Bill Watson. They were approved by the old Cabell County Commission. We are 15 in a 30 year lease and we had no problem… so the fact that you are taking taxpayer money to sue you makes no sense to me.