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Fayette fills airport authority vacancies

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2002

UNIONTOWN - Faced earlier in the week with the resignations of two airport authority board members and the re-appointment of a current authority member, two Fayette County commissioners acted on Thursday to fill the vacancies with their candidates.

The third commissioner, however, voted against the three appointments, stating that each commissioner should have nominated a person to serve on the Fayette County Airport Authority, and furthermore, he felt he was not part of the decision-making process.

Chairman Vincent Victims and Commissioner Sean Cavanagh voted to re-appoint Fred K. Davis, former authority chairman, whose term expired in December. The third commissioner, Ronald Nehls, voted against Davis' re-appointment.

Named to seats vacated on Monday by the resignations of Connellsville businessmen Gary Tedesco and Terry "Tuffy" Shallenberger were Martin S. Griglak of Connellsville and Robert Schiffbauer, a South Union Township supervisor.

Griglak, 75, a consultant and political strategist who also serves on numerous boards, was nominated by Vicites. Schiffbauer, who has served as a supervisor for 23 years, was nominated by Cavanagh.

Nehls voted against both appointments, noting that he has an individual in mind and was concerned that all interests of Fayette County be represented by the authority board.

To be equitable, each commissioner should be given the opportunity to appoint one of the three positions available, said Nehls.

In addition to the resignations of Shallenberger and Tedesco, Bill Lincoln, an unpaid consultant to the authority and former state senator, also resigned. Shallenberger and Tedesco, in their letters, indicated that additional business responsibilities would keep them from devoting time to outside activities.

Vicites and Cavanagh have alluded to the fact that the resignations of the two men resulted from the anticipated re-appointment of Davis. The commissioners said they were prepared to make appointments to continue the momentum of the authority, which has numerous projects on the table, including a runway extension project.

In accepting the resignations Cavanagh said, "I thank them for the time they have invested but it's time to move on."

Cavanagh noted that the county has a $50 million project to revitalize the airport, including the runway and other projects, and in a recent meeting with Diana Wally, airport manager, and Robbie Matesic, of the airport's engineering firm, Benatec Associates of Greensburg, progress has been made "but not as much as everyone thinks."

Cavanagh said the momentum of lobbying U.S. legislators will continue next month when he and Vicites attend the national conference of county commissioners in Washington, D.C., and meet directly with U.S. Reps. John Murtha, Frank Mascara and Bill Shuster, and U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. "The only special interest is the citizens of Fayette County, to give them a good airport."

In addition to a $1.5 million federal appropriation, the commissioners have pledged $2 million of an $11.7 million bond issue towards the airport runway.

Vicites said that engineering design of the runway and the airport master plan are expected to be completed this year. Next year, final design of the runway extension and right-of-way acquisitions are expected to be completed, with construction slated to begin in 2004 or 2005.

"There is an enormous amount of work," said Vicites. "We need board members committed to getting this done as a team.

"We have to keep the momentum. We have to move this forward and not loose time," he continued.

In offering Davis for re-appointment, Cavanagh noted that Davis, an amateur pilot and engineer, approached him about the re-appointment.

Cavanagh said Davis indicated that he is committed to working for the county's citizens. Vicites said Davis has the technical expertise and brings piloting knowledge to the board.

Vicites noted that Griglak was a member of President John F. Kennedy's staff, worked with Robert Kennedy and later, Sen. Ted Kennedy; has participated in numerous election campaigns, mostly national and state; and has extensive experience in political affairs, both domestic and abroad. Additionally, Griglak serves as Fayette County Mental Health/Mental Retardation board chairman; served on the Highlands Hospital board for 25 years; and was on the board of trustees of Pittsburgh-based Forbes Health System for 10 years.

Vicites said Griglak will be a team player, and being a resident of Connellsville, will give geographical balance to the authority.

Griglak, following adjournment, said he will serve as long as needed. He also noted that he felt an obligation to not let something as important as the airport improvements be disrupted.

Cavanagh noted that Schiffbauer is a "visionary" supervisor and in this position, has much knowledge about transportation and has dealt with the state's Department of Transportation. Cavanagh said Schiffbauer has a good relationship with Murtha and is prepared to lobby alongside the commissioners next month.

Schiffbauer, contacted Thursday afternoon, said he feels he has the background and experience in dealing with the public and has experience with highway matters and economic development. He said it is important for the board "to convey the message to state officials and congressmen that we are committed to working as a cohesive board....work to one goal, a much improved and expanded airport."

Nehls, following adjournment, said he had wanted to nominate Greg Friend, of Nu-Metrics, for an appointment to the board. He said, "It was a case where we need to have representation from all the commissioners. I have none."

He said the appointments were an opportunity for all three commissioners to have input. "My interests are not represented, and that means my constituents are not represented."

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