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Airport authority board surprised by resignation

| Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

The abrupt resignation of longtime Fayette County Airport Authority member and current Chairman Fred Davis shocked authority members and Fayette County commissioners.

Davis told commissioners and fellow authority members in a letter earlier this week he would end his tenure on the authority as of Friday.

“I didn't know anything or hear anything about Fred's resignation before it happened,” said authority member Jesse Wallace, who is superintendent of the Laurel Highlands School District. “We didn't share any conversations about it.

“It was very surprising to me,” he added. “I always thought that the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport was a big part of Fred's life. I believe he had been an authority member for more than 20 years, and Fred is also a pilot.”

Fayette County Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink agreed, adding that she received a copy of the resignation letter on Wednesday, which Davis had sent to Fayette County Commission Chairman Al Ambrosini.

“Due to a not unanticipated increase in my off airport obligations and the amount of time they would consume, I cannot continue to commit the hours that I feel are required to support both the position of chairman or even board member,” Davis wrote in the letter.

“Therefore with regret, I resign from the Fayette County Airport Authority effective 11:59 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16,” he continued. “Thank you for the opportunity to have served the community.”

Davis and Ambrosini could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Zimmerlink said the county commissioners will need to fill the vacant seat on the airport authority.

The county will solicit letters from individuals in the community who are interested in serving on the authority, according to Zimmerlink.

Candidates will be interviewed, and an individual will be appointed to serve the remainder of the term, she said.

Ambrosini said earlier this week that commissioners would likely advertise the opening and begin interviewing possible replacements. He said he would like commissioners to vote on a replacement as early as next month.

John “Bud” Neckerauer, airport manager, said Davis, a Dunbar resident and a retired engineer from E.W. Bowman in Uniontown, has been conducting consulting work.

“I really don't know the details of his consulting work, but apparently Fred didn't feel that he had enough time to do both,” Neckerauer said.

The resignation of Davis occurs months after former chairman and authority member Terry “Tuffy” Shallenberger resigned. Former airport manager Mary Lou Fast resigned from her position before Shallenberger's resignation.

In recent months, the airport has been mired in financial problems and faced an operating deficit. For the past two years, the Federal Aviation Administration has continued to cite the airport for safety and other ongoing deficiencies that could jeopardize federal funding.

The authority's next regularly scheduled meeting is Wednesday.

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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