Washington County Airport getting dollars from COVID-19 Act

Barbara Miller

The Washington County Airport is among those in Pennsylvania that will receive Federal Aviation Administration grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

U.S. Sen Bob Casey, in a news release earlier this week, referred to a “streamlined grant process to expedite this funding for critical airport needs.”

To receive the $69,000 listed, “We have to apply like we would normally for any Bureau of Aviation grant, but we’re not competing though,” explained William McGowen, executive director of the Washington County Redevelopment Authority, which oversees operations at the county-owned airport.

“We would expect to see a grant offer come from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bureau of Aviation. We would accept it and the funds would be flowing to us in the next 60 days,” said Robert Griffin, acting director of the Washington County Airport.

Like airports nationwide, the county facility has been seeing “definitely less traffic” since the pandemic hit the United States.

The county receives revenue from fuel sales – known as a fuel flowage fee – and leasing land to airport-based businesses.

The county owns the land beneath corporate hangars, but corporations pay the county a commercial lease fee and land fee.

McGowen has never seen such a precipitous drop in the price of fuel over such a short time.

In an airport-related matter Wednesday, the Washington County commissioners approved an underground right-of-way easement with Verizon Pennsylvania LLC to install an underground cable at Gulfstream Road.

Griffin said there is no money changing hands for the easement, which he called “an extension of their existing infrastructure to serve four future aircraft hangars.”

Earth moving started in the last week or so, McGowen said, as an essential construction function. The grading and other site work aims to improve the airport’s runway safety area.

Plans call for making the future hangar site pad-ready to house corporate aircraft sometime in the future to be built by entities other than the county.

Casey noted 63 Pennsylvania airports will receive a combined total of more than $239 million in new funding from the CARES Act.

“Our airports need help to continue operations and save employees’ jobs,” he said.