The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

February 24, 2013

On airport venture, frank and open dialogue welcomed

— A recent front-page news story described as “intense discussion” talk at an airport authority meeting about a foreign trade zone for the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.

“After further review,” we see it also as “healthy debate.”

We hope our readers also accepted the dialogue between President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder and authority board members as good government at work – officials looking out for taxpayers’ best interests.

Here’s background in case you missed Randy Griffith’s piece:

Lengenfelder was about to depart, at his own expense, on a mission to Argentina to find out whether businesses and government officials there were interested in business ventures tied to airport property. He wanted assurance that authority members were backing him on the project.

He further sought board approval of him as a deal-making representative for the county, and was also looking for travel expenses for a Miami economic-development consultant and lawyer who would accompany him on the trip.

On the other hand, some authority members said they felt they were being rushed, they were unsure about some details and were hesitant to offer wholehearted backing.

“I want to go into this eyes wide open and be able to say we took a chance and did everything we could to make this a success,” authority member William Polacek said.

Added chairman James Loncella, “I have concerns about committing the county to money in subsequent years.”

Others also offered either support or concerns, including solicitor Timothy Leventry and board member Ed Cernic Sr.

What the “intense discussion” resulted in was unanimous approval for the travel expenses plus funding to have the lawyer develop a feasibility study on the foreign trade zone. Maximum cost was set at a little more than $13,000.

In addition, Polacek and Cernic, in unison, assured Lengenfelder that “you are the spokesman.”

We again applaud Lengenfelder for his initiative to Argentina, where, as an Air Force officer, he served as a U.S. air attaché.

We also commend the authority members and the commissioner for having an open and frank discussion to air any concerns.

We look forward to soon hearing a report on the commissioner’s mission.

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