Deadline approaching for commercial air service

By: Whitney Burks Email
By: Whitney Burks Email

City officials in Pikeville have been working to bring commercial air service to the area for several years, and they are now nearing a deadline for county officials to help them out.

The city needs the fiscal court to pass a resolution asking for multi-county coal severance money, and time is running out for that resolution.

Nova Pharmacy is a locally owned business in Pikeville, but owner Joel Thornbury says his reach expands way beyond the city lines.

"I do a lot more things on a national scale. I do a lot of traveling. I am president of the Board of Pharmacy and so traveling for me is a huge inconvenience now," he said.

So he fully supports the initiative to bring commercial air service to the region, something that City Manager Donovan Blackburn has been working towards for several years.

"My entire career with the city since 2004 has been focused in and around commercial air service," he said.

The city has been approved for a $750,000 grant on one condition: the fiscal court needs to pass a resolution asking for matching coal severance money.

"The governor is going to put those dollars into another county outside of our area, and if we don't take advantage of them then shame on us," said Blackburn.

Business owners and city officials seem to agree that commercial air service would benefit the area in several ways, and they say it is a "no brainer" that the fiscal court should vote for it.

"Getting things in for me that are next day will be able to keep costs down for patients. You'll see small businesses grow because that's how we're built here. Everything's a mom and pop type of structure," said Thornbury.

But other projects using coal severance money have already been passed in other counties, and time is running out.

"All these other projects throughout the state of Kentucky are spending our money, money that has been made off the sweat and the backs of hardworking coal miners in Eastern Kentucky. So all we're asking is to keep those dollars home and in such a way that will benefit the entire region," said Blackburn.

Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford has said that he supports commercial air service, but he cannot speak for the rest of the court.

Officials say if the fiscal court does not pass it now it could be the last chance Pike County has.

The fiscal court plans to vote on the resolution Tuesday.

Officials say if it does not pass, the FAA has plans to shorten the airport's runway which would make it impossible for commercial airplanes to land there.

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