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Runway extension progress, potential FOP suit among Morgantown Council issues

MORGANTOWN — Runway extension progress and pushback from the Fraternal Order of Police were among a number of issues raised during Tuesday’s regular session of Morgantown City Council. 

Deputy Mayor Rachel Fetty reiterated that the draft ordinance enabling the creation of a Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board that was presented to council last week will be forwarded on to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office for review. 

This in the wake of the Mon-Preston Fraternal Order of Police — which represents nearly all Morgantown’s Police Officers — making public its intention to sue if such a body is enacted. 

The FOP’s attorney, Teresa C. Toriseva, echoed sentiments shared by Morrisey last September, specifically that only the Police Civil Service Commission has the authority to investigate allegations that could lead to punitive action.   

In a letter to members of council, Toriseva points out that even if the board has no authority to discipline or terminate officers, it sets up a “burdensome dual system of investigation” and is in direct conflict with state code by way of its investigative and subpoena powers.

Fetty explained that the special committee that publicly crafted the ordinance over the past  seven months took everyone’s rights into account. The goal, she explained, is to provide an avenue for citizens to feel comfortable voicing concerns.

The amount of participation offered by representatives of law enforcement in that process was a point raised more than once.

“It is disappointing to have provided a very transparent and open process and to have received so little feedback from the Fraternal Order of Police or the MPD or other members of the police department,” Fetty said.  

Also on Tuesday, council voted unanimously in support of a contract totaling $5,753,978.10 with Doss Enterprises for Phase 1 of the long awaited runway extension project.

The project will add 1,001 feet to the Morgantown Municipal Airport’s 5,199-foot runway. It’s expected to take five years and cost $50 million to complete.

The extension has been a talking point and a priority for the city for well over a decade. It received the needed clearances from the Federal Aviation Administration in November of 2019.

“I would just like to thank all the people who’ve worked on this for years and years and years and years. It’s very, very exciting and will be a huge asset to the city and the region,” Councilor Jenny Selin said.

The city received just under $7.8 million from the FAA last April for the work. Three months later, an additional $1.9 million in federal funding was awarded. 

The majority of Phase 1 will consist of erosion and sedimentation control, clearing and grubbing, structure removal and the construction of an airport perimeter road, among other efforts.

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