JUST eight years ago, it looked as if Charleston would lose its 130th Airlift Wing at Yeager Airport to the U.S. Defense Department's budget ax.
But civic leaders and the state's congressional delegation - led by Sen. Robert C. Byrd - persuaded the Pentagon to spare the Air National Guard unit.
Since then, the state has met every one of the complaints about the 130th air base at Yeager except one, the need to have a secure entrance, according to retired Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett.
Tackett wants to go ahead with a $9 million project to build a bridge to connect Coonskin Park with U.S. 119 on the other side of the Elk River. Once the bridge was built, the current park entrance just beyond the Guard facilities on Coonskin Drive would be closed.
Tackett suggests the Guard borrow the money through a bond sale and then share responsibility for the debt payments with Yeager Airport, the Kanawha County Commission and the city of Charleston. The latter three entities would be asked to contribute $100,000 a year each.
While the base is a major employer with 350 full-time employees and 700 part-time Guardsmen, this bridge construction should be a state project. After all, the 130th is a state agency.
Alas, Tackett's unorthodox proposal reflects the lack of highway funding in the state budget. It's another need that the state does not seem to be able to meet.
Nonetheless, city and county officials should press the state to provide some if not all of the funding. After all, city and county residents pay state taxes, too.