EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSKanawha Commission Agrees To Fund Yeager Fire Service
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kera Mashek
Web Producer: Kera Mashek
Reported: Oct. 2, 2013 10:40 PM EDT
Updated: Oct. 3, 2013 9:02 AM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
There is still no progress to resolve the government shutdown, even after President Obama met with Congressional leaders at the White House Wednesday.
Nearly 800,000 federal workers across the country are furloughed because of Congress' inability to pass a new budget. That funding failure had the potential to impact air travel at Yeager Airport in Charleston.
To avoid any negative effects, the Kanawha County Commission called an emergency meeting Wednesday to talk about funding a crucial part of the Air National Guard at Yeager Airport..
In a unanimous decision\, the commission agreed to issue what it's calling a "blank check" to fund fire services at Yeager. It was a move they found necessary because with the government shutdown, federal funding for Yeager's fire service at the 130th Airlift Wing is no longer coming in.
But the buck doesn't stop with the commission.
Kanawha County commissioners feel pigeon holed now that federal funds have been cut off and the state only covering costs for the next week to keep yeager airport's fire service up and running.
Despite their frustations, commissioners said no question, they will do whatever it takes to keep the fire service running because without it all flights coming in and out of Charleston's airport could be grounded.
"Even if you don't fly in and out of the airport, the impact on the state, the county, and city would be tremendous. We just can't allow the airport to close because the people in Washington can't get their act together," said
Kent Carper, Kanawha Co. Commission President.
It's not a cheap bill for commissioners to foot. As long as the federal government stays shutdown, the county will be cutting checks to the tune of $40,000 a week to keep the Yeager fire service afloat. And the commission says it will continue to do so as long as needed, funding the firefighters through its "rainy day" reserves fund.
"It's a huge amount of money. If we have to cut other projectsw, we'll cut it, but the alternative is we lose commercial traffic. Right now already, there are now Guard planes flying over this area for training missions. I mean, how long will they let this go on?" Carper said.
So while it's an unexpected expense for the commission, they're glad to step up and help in a time of need. But they also say they buck doesn't stop here. Letters are headed out to all West Virginia Congressional members condemning them for putting so many communities in this situation to begin with, and urging quick action to fix it.
"They need to come to a resolution and take this on the issue at hand which is the budget, and they can debate all they want on Obamacare or anything else, but tying both of them together and just clogging up the machinery of government is a sad thing," said Rick Atkinson, Yeager Airport executive director.
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