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Yeager board refinances debt; now lawyered up over hillside collapse

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Yeager Airport Board hopes to have $6 million at its disposal soon to take care of residents affected by the March hillside collapse of the airport’s overrun area.

The Yeager Airport Board says it needs to make residents along Keystone Drive whole. Houses were damaged by flooding 2 months ago.
The Yeager Airport Board says it needs to make residents along Keystone Drive whole. Houses were damaged by flooding 2 months ago.

The board finalized plans in a special meeting Friday to refinance existing debt and use the money, along with county funds, to pay residents for damages to their properties. Airport spokesman Mark Plante said the board made the move as three insurance companies continue to drag their feet.

“We can’t stand by and wait and wait and wait for the insurance companies to step in and do their job,” Plante said.

Yeager’s insurance company, along with an insurers representing the firm that engineered the overrun fill project and the contractor that built it, have been negotiating. Yet none of the companies had sent an adjuster to the site as of Friday, some 55 days after the collapse. Plante said the insurance companies are talking to one another but taking little action.

“We’ve been told continuously that’s what they are doing. The frustrating part on our end is it’s taken as long as it has,” he said.

Several residents on Keystone Drive and Barlow Drive, which are located below the hillside, sustained significant damages to their properties. The slide destroyed the Keystone Apostolic Church building, and Plante said five families continue to stay in area hotels.

“We have a responsibility to make them whole. We can’t ask them to wait for an indeterminable amount of time while the insurance companies decide what to do,” Plante said.

Part of the $6 million the board has freed up will also be used to pay for a yet-to-be-chosen engineering firm to design a repair for the fill area. Plante said a request-for-proposals would be extended soon.

The airport board is also preparing for a possible legal battle if it doesn’t receive reimbursements from the insurance companies. Three prominent Charleston law firms—The Segal Law firm; Bucci, Bailey & Javins; and Powell & Majestro—were in attendance Friday.

“All three firms have agreed to underwrite, at their own expense, the cost of litigation if it should become necessary in order to help the airport,” Plante said.

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