CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Retired Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett says building a $9 million bridge from Interstate 79 to Coonskin Park is crucial to saving the Air National Guard base at Yeager Airport.
Tackett hopes the W.Va. National Guard armory board will issue a bond to build the structure, and that local governmental organizations will help fund the project.
Tackett hopes the Kanawha County Commission, the City of Charleston and the airport authority will pledge $100,000 a year apiece to help pay the debt incurred by constructing the bridge.
The Guard would also have to provide funds to help pay off the debt, he said.
"It's only common sense that everyone should chip in," Tackett said.
The U.S. Department of Defense has asked Congress to again instruct the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to again initiate a report to look at another round of closures in order to eliminate some defense infrastructure and save funds, Tackett said.
Tackett, a member of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation board, discussed the bridge during a meeting Wednesday.
He is also a member of the Central West Virginia Airport Authority board. Yeager Airport is home of the 130th Airlift Wing.
The original plan to build the bridge stems from the near-closure of the Air National Guard base at Yeager in 2005. The late Sen. Robert Byrd was credited with saving the base, as was Tackett.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper remembers the fight to save the 130th Airlift Wing's base at Yeager Airport very well. He stood side by side with Tackett and Byrd when moves were made to save the base.
He is prepared to enter the fray once again, he said.
"It's critical for us to save that base," Carper said.
Commissioner Dave Hardy also believes saving the Air National Guard base is a high priority, and that it is well worth the $100,000 annual contribution.
"If Gen. Tackett tells me that's what it's going to take to save that base, then I have 100 percent confidence in his judgment," Hardy said.
Carper said the county would be able to afford the $100,000 a year to help pay off the debt for construction of the bridge. The money would come from additional revenue generated from the increased coal severance allocations to counties, Carper said.
Carper was instrumental in getting the bill increasing the coal severance tax allocated to counties passed during the 2011 Legislative session.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones is not so sure the city will be able to afford to pay $100,000 a year to help fund construction of the bridge.
"Yeager Airport isn't in Charleston and the $100,000 a year will be a tough sell," he said. "But we'll listen to what General Tackett has to say."
However, Jones acknowledged that the base is an important part of the entire state's economy. Jones also believes the state needs to get involved with the situation.
"We need to the governor to help us with this," Jones said.
The governor has a rainy day fund available and that could be used to cover the cost, he said.