Cumberland airport recognized by FAA as being in West Virginia

Elaine Blaisdell   Cumberland Times-News  WILEY FORD, W.Va. — The Greater Cumberland Regional Airport is recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration as a West Virginia airport despite the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority’s claims that the airport is listed in Cumberland.

“The Greater Cumberland Regional Airport is (and always has been) a West Virginia airport, not a Maryland airport,” writes Susan V. Chernenko, director of the Aeronautics Commission in a response to Delegate Gary Howell’s question about how the airport is categorized by the FAA.

Since the inception of the authority, members have been debating whether they should follow West Virginia or Maryland law and in June they voted to follow Maryland law as recommended by former airport attorney Jeff Getty. In July, the authority voted 6 to 1 to add the Maryland Open Meeting Act into their bylaws. William Smith, authority member, who made the motion to place the open meetings act into the bylaws, clarified that he made that motion because the Federal Aviation Administration National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems lists the airport as being in Cumberland and because in 1944 Maryland bought the land that funded the construction of the airport.

“Nationally, the FAA assigns an associated city, to every airport, based on population metric. Cumberland is the associated city for the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport, based on the FAA metric,” writes Chernenko. “The FAA recognizes the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport in Wiley Ford, West Virginia, as a West Virginia airport.”

Authority member Dr. Richard Lechliter voted against placing the open meetings act into bylaws because an opinion on whether the authority should follow West Virginia or Maryland law is forthcoming from the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

Howell has requested that the authority follow the West Virginia Open Meetings Act. There are substantial differences between the Maryland and West Virginia open meetings acts and a difference in the Freedom of Information Act between the two states, Ramon Rozas III, airport attorney has previously indicated.

“…the PHAA should be doing a better job of eliminating misleading information from it’s decision making process,” writes Howell in an email to the Allegany and Mineral County Commissioners and District 1 Legislators. “One thing that would help in that regard is holding the meetings in accordance with the West Virginia Open Meetings Act, not only because it’s the law but because it it always in the best interest of the public to hold the meetings in the most open format possible.”

During an authority meeting in July, the authority voted to meet in executive session to allow Rozas to discuss the open meetings act. Per Maryland law, a public body can enter into executive session to consult with counsel to obtain legal advice on a legal matter, said Smith.

In 1976, the legislatures of Maryland and West Virginia ratified the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority Compact, authorizing the creation of the authority, according to the Maryland government website. The compact was ratified by Congress in 1998. The authority is comprised of members from both states.

Ryan Shaffer, airport manager just received the letters and is reviewing them before commenting.

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