Article originally posted to The Lane Report web site http://www.lanereport.com/40567/2014/10/appalachian-air-to-launch-first-flight-from-pikeville-on-monday/
Inaugural flight will go to Nashville
PIKEVILLE, Ky. (Oct. 24, 2014) — Appalachian Air is ready to launch its inaugural first flight from Pikeville. The first flight, from Pikeville to Nashville International Airport, is scheduled for leave Kentucky at 6:55 a.m. on Oct. 27. Flight time will be a little more than one hour. The new service is operated by Public Charters Inc. of Avoca, Pa,. and Corporate Flight Management of Smyrna, Tenn.
“After nearly four years of planning, recruiting, meetings, teleconferences, addressing regulatory hurdles, etc., on the part of our community and air service partners, we are ready to launch the very first commercial air flight from Pikeville and Eastern Kentucky,” said Luke B. Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, the Louisville-based consulting firm that has been facilitating the development of air service in Pikeville for the City of Pikeville, the Pikeville – Pike County Airport Board, and the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “Everything is set and we are ready to welcome our first passengers on board the Jetstream J32.”
Appalachian Air will launch the service with one daily roundtrip (the return flight departs BNA at 4:30 PM CDT and arrives back in Pikeville at 6:55 PM EDT). The Appalachian Air aircraft will overnight each night at the Pikeville – Pike County Regional Airport.
“This is a great day for the City of Pikeville,” said Donovan Blackburn, Pikeville City Manager. “The development of commercial air service in Pikeville has been a community goal going all the way back to 1968.”
Originally posted to the WYMT-TV web site on September 19, 2014 http://www.wkyt.com/wymt/home/headlines/Appalachian-Air-sets-date-for-takeoff-275658861.html
(Click on the above link to see the video news report)
Pikeville, Ky. (WYMT))– Appalachian Air has set a date for its first flight to Nashville.
That first daily flight is set to depart Pikeville on October 27 at about 6:30 in the morning.
“The real benefit, I believe, that the service is going to provide is it’s going to link Pikeville and Pike County to the global air system via the Nashville airport,” said Luke Schmidt, a consultant who has worked on getting commercial flights in Pikeville.
He believes this will be a viable operation because research indicated a number of travelers in Eastern Kentucky who went to other airports farther away than Pikeville for air service.
“We know the market exists because we did a very extensive market profile,” said Schmidt.
Tammy Riley, who serves as campus director for National College in Pikeville believes the service will make for more efficient operations for her school.
“Being attached to a multi-campus university, we find that there are individuals at regional and national level that need to travel to all of those campuses, one being my campus in Pikeville,” said Riley.
Third time charmed?
Article was originally posted on September 19, 2014 to the (Pikeville) Appalachian News-Express web site http://news-expressky.com/edition/
Appalachian Air sets new takeoff date; web site goes live
Appalachian Air may soon be ready to fly.
Officials announced Thursday that the long languishing commercial air service project is set to take off on Monday, Oct. 27, and begin daily round-trip commercial operation to Nashville from the Pikeville-Pike County Regional Airport. It was also announced that the Appalachian Air website is now live and bookings for flights will begin in October.
The new launch date is the third date set by organizers of the project since the project was announced, but during Thursday’s announcement event, officials said they are now ready for Appalachian Air’s wheels to leave the ground. The new date comes after months of delays officials have blamed on government regulations and processes.
One of those officials was Consultant Luke Schmidt, who has worked on the commercial air service project since its inception. He said the service will launch on the new date.
“No more delays,” Schmidt said. “You’re not going to hear us two weeks from now say, ‘Uh oh, we can’t do it.’ We’re here, the plane’s coming and so we better be ready, and we will be.”
Schmidt said the first revenue flight will depart from Pikeville on the morning of Oct. 27 and the first inbound flight will arrive in Pikeville that evening. The plane, he said, will overnight in Pikeville for the next morning’s flight.
However, one of the major selling points of the service — “sterile” baggage service from Pikeville to the customer’s ultimate destination — may not be available on the launch date. Schmidt said the plans for baggage screening by the Transportation Safety Administration have been submitted to the TSA’s office in Louisville and they are reviewing the plans. They have not yet been approved, however, and the organizers of Appalachian Air are still waiting on that approval. Schmidt added, though, that the process is progressing.
“They are working that issue through right now and they’re well aware of our start date and I’m told they are working to try to and accommodate us for that,” he said. “The other part is the airport security plan, which we drafted … we submitted that back about the first of the year (and) that’s been accepted.
“So, half of it’s done, the other half is almost done,” he said.
David Lucas, the president of consulting firm DL Group, said Public Charters, for whom his company performing consultation work, is committed to launching the service on the new launch date.
“Oct. 27th; we mean it, we’re ready to go,” he said.
Lucas said delays in the project have made the public skeptical to promises the service is ready to take off. He added, however, that planned promotions — including a limited time 50 percent off promotion which will be active upon the service’s launch — will help in letting the public know the service is ready to go.
“It’s been a long time in coming,” Lucas said. “You’ve been hearing about it … We want to show you and we have a number of promotional programs that we’re going to roll out one right after the other.”
Article was originally posted on July 16, 2014 to the (Pikeville) Appalachian News-Express web site http://news-expressky.com/top_news/article_e9f29554-0c5b-11e4-a52e-001a4bcf887a.html?referer_url=/top_news/article_e9f29554-0c5b-11e4-a52e-001a4bcf887a.html
By Russ Cassady, Editor Appalachian News-Express
When the commercial air service proposed to be stationed at the Pikeville-Pike County Airport stalled prior to its April start date, many expressed skepticism over whether the service would ever get off the ground.
However, on Monday, the Pikeville City Commission was told by consultant Luke Schmidt that the project has cleared another hurdle and can begin working toward operation.
During the commission’s regular meeting work session, Schmidt addressed the board on the status of the service, named Appalachian Air, and said the project can now get moving forward.
While getting $1.5 million in funding to provide a subsidy for the airline and finding an airline, Corporate Flight Management, and supporting company, Public Charters, to provide the service was taken care of early in the process, the project was stopped dead prior to its expected April 14 launch date.
The hangup, according to Schmidt, was the most significant hurdle the project had to overcome. Just prior to the flights being launched, the airport was informed that because it was not certified under a particular portion of federal aviation law, the service could not begin.
Schmidt said those working on the project had been informed last fall that the certification wouldn’t be needed, and the Federal Aviation Administration had been asked if it was needed, but didn’t answer until February.
At that time, he said, some within the agency said the certification was needed, but not all agreed.
“There were conflicting views within the agency as to whether we should or shouldn’t have to do it,” he said. “We just could not come to an agreement between all of us as to what needed to be done or what didn’t have to be done.”
That, he said, stopped the project dead in its tracks.
“That brought to a halt things such as finalizing our small community air service development grant,” he said. “It brought to a halt having (the Transportation Security Administration’s) plan in place so that we would have screening at the Pikeville airport prior to departure for the passengers … We really hit a wall.”
The City of Pikeville hired legal counsel in Washington, D.C., Schmidt said, and the counsel informed officials early this month that the agencies involved had decided that the certification was not necessary for the service to begin as proposed.
“Now we can all move forward with a quite of bit of confidence that we’re in a good, good spot,” he said.
The TSA, he said, still has to approve the airport’s plan and also the security plan.
“We’re hoping that approval will be forthcoming within a month,” he said.
Because the TSA still has to approve the plans, he said, it is not known when Appalachian Air will take off.
“We will not announce a service launch date until we’re all 110 percent sure we can meet the date,” he said. “Because what we don’t want is another delay, another postponement. And a lot of that’s going to be dependent on how quickly TSA moves on that.”
Pikeville City Manager Donovan Blackburn said during the meeting that he asks the community bear with city officials as this project gets underway.
“I know everybody’s impatient,” he said. “The community wants to see this service. Nobody wants to see it more than (the commission). We’re over a lot of the hurdles and moving forward.”
He also said that he hopes that critics can now get behind the project.
“We hope that now, everybody, even the naysayers, are now on board now that obstacle has been cleared,” he said.
Commissioner Jerry Keith Coleman pointed out during the discussion that the subsidy the project has built up has not been spent.
“That $1.5 million isn’t gone on a gamble or what they perceive as a gamble,” he said. “That’s not what has taken place here.”
Mayor Frank Justice said during the meeting that he appreciates the effort officials have put forth, especially since this is the one chance for the community to get air service.
“If you all hadn’t been bulldogging like you have, this project probably would have died,” he said.
Schmidt reiterated during the meeting that despite what critics have said of the air service, it will get started.
“In spite of what a handful of folks have said, this service will launch, it will operate and it’s going to be a service that’s going to put this community on the map even more than it is now,” he said.
Article and video news report by Hillary Thornton originally posted to the WYMT-TV web site http://www.wkyt.com/wymt/home/headlines/Appalachian-Air-takes-trial-flight-from-Pikeville-to-Nashville–245305681.html
PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) Get ready for take off. In November, state and local leaders announced a new commercial air service coming to Eastern Kentucky. On Wednesday, many local leaders were on board for the trial flight. WYMT also flew along as they toured the facilities in Nashville.
More than a dozen people boarded the plane and took part in the hour long flight.
Project leaders have been busy preparing for the launch of Appalachian Air.
Luke Schmidt says, “We are daling with things like improving infrastructure at airport and dealing with creating TSA screening and security plan…we are in the middle of that right now.”
Officials say Wednesday’s trip is another step to getting the service up and running…touring the operating company, Cooperate Flight Management’s maintenance facilities.
CFM Chief Executive Allen Howell says, ” I think the community leaders have a real vision for what air service does for a community from the economic development stand point. The community understands this is an infrastructure issue, just like having a good highway system.”
Wednesday’s passengers, also getting a first hand look at Nashville International Airport, which officials say will be a huge gateway to Eastern Kentucky.
Passengers on Appalachian Air will fly in and out of Terminal C, which is in the main hub of the Nashville airport….with 70% of the airport’s business taking place in that terminal.
Once in Nashville, passengers will not have to go back through security, making for easy connections and quick travel.
Schmidt says, “The Nashville airport is growing and it has a lot of service but it is not Atlanta and it is not Chicago, which on any scale are huge, complex, and can be cumbersome.”
Officials hope to get Appalachian Air officially off the ground on April 14th, with ticket sales starting on February 24th.
That start date is a little later than officials had anticipated, due to some delays they could not control like the time it took to get proper certifications…which they say was slowed down due to the government shutdown.
Schmidt says, “Everyone involved in this project, whether they are in Pikeville or one of our providers, we are all comitted to doing this thing 100% – – first class all the way. We don’t want anything to slip through, so that’s why we did that.”
Officials say a new website should be operating soon and will feature a trip calculator to help folks compare prices from other airports, while taking into account driving time and expenses.
Article originally posted to the (Somerset) Commonwealth-Journal’s web site http://www.somerset-kentucky.com/local/x1768000277/Tone-of-SPCU-report-is-positive
by Chris Harris Commonwealth Journal Fri Jan 24, 2014, 05:29 PM EST
Somerset — Around 140 people attended Thursday night’s public unveiling of a $35,000 study designed to determine the feasibility of a united city-county government here in Pulaski County.
The tone of the presentation was overwhelmingly positive toward the idea that the area could benefit from a merging of local governments, focusing on several communities — including Athens, Ga., Butte, Mont., and Lexington and Louisville, Ky. — that apparently benefited from a similar unification.
“I think this community is at a real crossroads,” announced Luke Schmidt, president of Louisville firm L.B. Schmidt & Associates, and the man who conducted the study and presented it Thursday at the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce “Business After Hours” event at The Center for Rural Development.
“You have a lot of great things here, a very good quality of life,” he continued. “… I think you have a real question to ask yourselves, and that is: Do we want to take our good local government and make it great? Do we want to bring new opportunities for growth and development and new jobs into the community that we might not get otherwise, unless we consider a change in … government?
“My recommendation to the community is, I think unified government, if it’s carefully crafted, carefully considered, and properly implemented … can, in fact, bring some benefits to the community,” he added. “If you draft a poorly-drafted plan, it won’t work. But if you really get involved, stay on it, and take the time and put together a really good plan, I think the opportunity exists to really move this community to the next level.”
Schmidt specified that this is because it gives the community “the ability to speak with one voice” in Frankfort and Washington; because clashes between local governments — and as Schmidt alluded to multiple times, the Pulaski County government and City of Somerset have had their share over the last year, particularly over occupational tax distribution — can potentially drive away businesses looking to locate here; and becoming the third-largest community in the state in terms of population.
Schmidt said that he saw only two disadvantages to a merger: the loss of USDA loans due to population thresholds (which would take place if the city reached second-class status with a population of 20,000 — which, Schmidt said, has been a stated goal of Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler anyway), and potential loss of community identity, which Schmidt also downplayed, as “it’s not like the complexion of the community will just dry up and disappear,” as he put it.
The results of the study are available at www.spcunited.com. SPCU (Somerset-Pulaski County United) is the group made up of numerous local citizens and businesspersons who pushed for the feasibility study to take place.
The study was just research; any unification of local governments would have to be voted upon by Pulaski County citizens, and the process could take years if it ever gets off the ground at all. Schmidt stressed that without participation by the City of Somerset, the plan wouldn’t work.
To date, Mayor Eddie Girdler and the Somerset City Council have been resistant to working with those conducting the study.
Pat Bourne was one councilor who attended the Thursday meeting. He said he hadn’t “established an opinion” on the matter but was just there as a citizen to learn more.
“It didn’t tell me anything that I hadn’t already thought of,” he said of the presentation. “I don’t know where this thing’s going or if they’re going to continue doing research on it or not.”
Bill Leslie of the Burnside City Council was in attendance too. He didn’t expect a unified government situation to ever transpire given Somerset’s opposition, nor did he think it was a good idea for his own city.
“No, I don’t,” he said when asked if he thought unified government would be in Burnside’s best interests. “We would lose our identity as Burnside. … We have these individual forms of government because that’s what we chose. If we’re going to merge, why not merge all the states? Do away with all local governments? No, that’s not the way to do it.”
Other officials had a more favorable reaction, particularly those representing the county government. The Pulaski County Fiscal Court, unlike the Somerset City Council, opted to help fund a third of the cost of the study.
“I think personally that we need to look into bettering our county,” said Fifth District Magistrate Mike Strunk. “… I think we need to look into (the merger plan) more. From what I heard tonight, yeah, I think it could be the best thing for our county.”
“My take as a magistrate is that I feel like we owe it to the county to look into this,” said Third District Magistrate Glenn Maxey. “… We have talked to these people a couple of times before. (The presentation) did shed light on a couple of different things I didn’t realize, like some of the cities that had gone into (a similar situation).”
Judge-Executive Barty Bullock was present Thursday night and said a lot of “good questions” were asked and answered.
“I think as elected officials, it’s our responsibility to look at every option to see if there’s something out there that’s better for the people of the county,” he said. “It’s something I can’t do or the mayor can’t do on his own. It has to go to a public vote. We as officials would abide by whatever the people vote for.”
Tiffany Bourne, Community Development Director with the county government, said that streamlining government would create less competition over financial resources.
“It is hard enough to compete with other counties and states for grant money without having to compete with our local cities,” she said. “No matter who the voice is, we need to speak as one voice.”
Bobby Clue, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, said that Schmidt’s presentation was “solid” and provided a lot of good information.
“The jury’s still out as far as we’re concerned,” he said. “We (the Chamber) are going to go back and meet as a board and we’re going to truly review what we’ve seen tonight. As soon as we do that, hopefully we’ll be able to come up with some conclusions on how we truly feel about united government.”
Clue said that having lived in Lexington, which merged with Fayette County decades ago, he saw lots of positives and very few negatives in that community. He noted that it’s difficult to tell if all of the developments Schmidt pointed out that occurred in other unified communities happened because of a merger similar to what’s being proposed in Pulaski County.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Numerous other individuals not in a public office of some kind also came to the meeting to hear what Schmidt had to say, and came away with a collectively mixed reaction.
Patty Ping of Childers Financial Services was all for the plan she heard about on Thursday night.
“I think it’s a great thing, long overdue,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of waste, a lot of repetition (in government). It would make things much simpler for us as citizens with what they’re trying to do to draw in industry and keep the population here, and even bring in new population. … I think (the study) was very informative, especially if you have an open mind.”
Ross Rutt, director of operations for Blackboard Student Services, didn’t share the same optimism.
“My biggest issue is that I think the priority of the county is job growth … and I just don’t see where any unified government at this point in time shows any data that it would improve net job adds,” he said. “My concern is that I see a lot of folks as public officials, representatives of the community organizing around this as opposed to job growth and that just sort of perplexes me. … I believe from an efficiency perspective (the plan) makes sense. I just believe that if we really want to improve our community, it’s going to be about focusing on really bringing some real jobs in. That’s what’s driving the issues with our community, like drug use and poverty.”
Real estate appraiser John Haney said that a unified government could be a “great step forward” for the community, and that the presentation raised a lot of intriguing questions for him.
“(The study) didn’t sway me either way,” he said. “My opinion has been that I’ve been on board with the merger or the prospect of looking into it since Day 1.”
According to Dave Weddle of Wellhead Energy Systems — the man whose Progress Somerset group successfully led a drive to make Somerset “wet” with alcohol sales in 2012 — it’s all just speculation unless Somerset city leaders indicate that they’re on board.
“It’s really impractical to do this without Somerset being fully engaged in the unification process,” he said. “… You’d have to assume that if the city (voting base) comes back and keeps things as they are (in the upcoming election), that would be a strong point on them saying they’re happy with the way things are.
“I think any place that doesn’t look at change every day … will probably fall behind,” added Weddle. “There are real, positive attributes to looking (at a unified government plan), but again, the devil is in the details.”
Article originally posted to WYMT-TV web site http://www.wkyt.com/wymt/home/headlines/Unified-Government-Study-released-in-Pulaski-County-241772741.html
The Pulaski County Unified Government Study Findings Presentation was held Thursday at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset. The study was commissioned by “Somerset-Pulaski County United” and the Pulaski County Fiscal Court and was conducted by a Louisville-based consulting firm.
A study to explore a unified government in Pulaski County that was the topic of conversation in Somerset Thursday, but what exactly is a “unified government” anyway?
“It’s essentially a merger of two or more local governments. Instead of having, say four cities and one county government. In theory, a combined or unified government could consolidate all of those governments into one streamlined government,” said Luke Schmidt of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, the firm that conducted the study.
And that was the theory presented to dozens of community members. More specifically, organizers say the goal was to explain how such a government could be implemented in the future.
“We just want to educate the community on what the possibilities are for economic development and opportunity in Pulaski county and Somerset,” said Brook Ping of Somerset – Pulaski County United.
But not everyone in the area supports the idea of unifying municipal governments. The city of Somerset elected not to participate in the study, its mayor saying such a path would have negative consequences.
“It’s not in the best interest of our citizens, or voters of Somerset, to take our resources and the efforts we’ve made and to virtually give them away to the county,” said Eddie Girdler, mayor of Somerset.
But organizers behind the study say this presentation should not be misinterpreted as a vote of support for a unified government, but merely as a starting point to begin the conversation.
Article originally posted to the (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal web site http://www.somerset-kentucky.com/local/x1767997925/SPCU-Study-stresses-plan-isn-t-political-foresees-Somerset-as-third-largest-city-in-state
SPCU study stresses plan isn’t political; foresees Somerset as third largest city in state
by Bill Mardis Commonwealth Journal Thu Jan 23, 2014, 07:38 PM EST
Somerset — Unifying governments in Pulaski County is a citizen-driven opportunity to streamline government through unification and is not involved in politics.
This was the central theme of a study released late yesterday to the Commonwealth Journal, and then to the public at a Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce “Business After Hours” event at The Center for Rural Development.
The 10-month study, commissioned by Somerset-Pulaski County United (SPCU), a group of about 150 civic and business leaders, was conducted by Luke Schmidt, president of Louisville-based consulting firm L.B. Schmidt & Associates.
“Neither SPCU nor locally elected officials, only voters can approve or reject unification,” Schmidt emphasized from the start. “We have never said … we will never say existing governments in Pulaski County are bad, nor does the study reflect negativity,” he insisted.
The study insists unification presents an opportunity to build a bigger and better community. “The opportunity exists to make good local government great with everyone focused on a common purpose –– to grow the community and create new jobs,” Schmidt said. “For communities that have unified, not one has dissolved its unified government to return to the former form of duplicative government, he related.
“This study provides a foundation for SPCU as we begin to consider both the positives and negatives that might accrue to our community if the community wishes to unify the various local governments, said SPCU chairman Brook Ping. “It is an educational process,” he added.
Unified governments in the county would dissolve city boundaries and create one government for the entire county. The exception is Eubank which straddles the Pulaski-Lincoln county line and by state law is not eligible to participate in a unified government. Schmidt said Eubank could enter into an interlocal agreement and be a participating city with unified governments.
The sense of community would remain … Nancy would be Nancy, Science Hill would be Science Hill, Burnside would be Burnside, both Ping and Schmidt emphasized.
At present, Pulaski County has 56 local government jurisdictions providing services to 63,000 people. Greater Pulaski County has an additional 32 boards and commissions for a total of 88 government-related entities, the study noted.
Annually, it costs $27.7 million in general fund revenues and a workforce of 581 employees to provide local government services in all of Pulaski County, the study pointed out. Somerset, with its current population of 11,296, is the 33rd largest city in Kentucky. Unified, with a population of more than 63,000, Somerset, now a third-class city, would be the third largest city in the state, qualifying for 2nd-class status.
Typically, no public workers from unifying jurisdictions are laid off as the result of merger. The work force is reduced by normal attrition, the study says.
“No one is saying unified governments will save money, only that money will be spent more efficiently,” said Schmidt.
Unification will not move school boundaries; it will not change local option areas, and with combined budgets, tax rates usually stay the same, Schmidt pointed out.
Schmidt and Ping explained that the unified government law in Kentucky has been modified to allow individual cities to remain unchanged.
“For example,” Schmidt said, “If voters in Science Hill rejected unification the city would not change. If voters in Somerset and unincorporated areas voted against the plan, unification is dead,” he noted.
“The most important part of the study, and perhaps the hardest part, will be for all citizens to begin thinking, not only outside the box, but also outside of traditional boundary lines,” said Schmidt. “The opportunity exists to build a bigger and better community,” he added. Economic development officials in unified communities confirm that having one central government is much more attractive to business and industrial clients considering investing in a community, the study said.
Somerset and Ferguson already have opted out of the plan and “ … without Somerset unification won’t work,” Schmidt conceded.
According to law, to start a unification process, Pulaski Fiscal Court, Somerset City Council and governing bodies of Burnside, Ferguson and Science Hill by ordinance would create an official Unified Government Commission made up of between 20 and 40 members to plan a structure for a unified city-county government.
Pulaski Fiscal Court would appoint half the members of a Unified Government Commission and the remaining members would be appointed by participating cities, prorated on population.
Any type of merged governments must be approved by voters of Pulaski County. Ping has said several times that unification is a slow process and successful merger could take up to four years
Article originally posted to the (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal web site http://www.somerset-kentucky.com/newslive/x1427970087/Unified-government-plan-to-be-unveiled
Public invited to hear results of SPCU study at Center tonight
by Bill Mardis Commonwealth Journal Wed Jan 22, 2014, 05:59 PM EST