Hardy Pumps $100K into Airport Authority

April 19, 2007
84 Lumber founder tries to help save "sinking ship"

Joe Hardy, the founder of 84 Lumber Co., announced Tuesday that he is donating $100,000 this week to the Fayette County Airport Authority to help the county board with its operating expenses.

Hardy disclosed the payment in a one-sentence letter to the board, which voted earlier this year to rename the Connellsville Airport in his honor.

Airport Manager Sam Cortis and board member Terry Shallenberger said yesterday that the airport has been running low on operating funds and falling behind on bills, particularly for fuel supplies.

Board Chairman Jesse Wallace said the authority is grateful for the money from Hardy, who as a Fayette County commissioner supported the appointment of four of the five board members since taking office in 2004.

"We're like a sinking ship taking on water," Wallace said.

At a March new conference to announce his re-election campaign, Hardy said he believes the 70-year-old Dunbar Township airport needs a couple of million dollars to improve its facilities.

Hardy has called the airport's condition "terrible," citing particular hangars that he said are falling down.

"That thing has to get so it's usable," Hardy said at the March 1 news conference. "It's a joke now."

In March 2006, Hardy gave the authority an $800,000 credit line to pay for engineering and design services for runway development at the airport.

He also agreed to contribute $10,000 for furnishings at the new airport terminal.

Some Connellsville city officials and historians have protested the airport's renaming, claiming a 1936 municipal agreement barred a name change.

Authority members initially intended to call it the Joseph A. Hardy Regional Airport.

Hardy said he learned about the name change at his 84th birthday party in January.

In February, the authority voted to call it the Joseph A. Hardy-Connellsville Airport.

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