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Airport Courtesy Car Reinstated

FARMVILLE – The Town of Farmville continues to offer a “courtesy car” at the Farmville Regional Airport in Cumberland for pilots who need to come into town for an hour or two before flying back out.

The transportation needs of pilots doing business in Farmville was the primary motivation, according to town manager Gerald Spates.

“If I hadn't had the business people call me, the ones that operate a business here that were really concerned about it, I would probably have recommended that we leave it like it is,” Spates said of council's earlier budget decision not to fund the courtesy car. “These are people that have a lot of money invested in the community, and don't live here.”

Spates cited individuals who own businesses or business property in Farmville who fly in to visit those sites.

“It is an issue for people who come in,” Spates told council members, citing the airport's remoteness to downtown.

“I mean, you're not that close to town-five miles,” he said prior to Town Council's decision to reinstate the service.

So forget walking or jogging.

And, he added, “most of your airports do” offer courtesy cars…

“…So I would like to ask Council to reconsider the courtesy car,” he said.

“A lot of the other small airports do it. We're isolated. I just think it's going to be a big deal and I know that Syd (Farmville Mayor Sydnor C. Newman) had to loan someone his truck the other day.” Newman is a pilot.

Town Council, with one No vote, approved the vehicle-a used Jeep worth, Spates estimated, $1,000 to $1,500.

Town officials noted the impracticality of pilots landing and hiring a rental car for an hour or two.

“It's not really practical for somebody that flies in for one hour to go rent a car for one hour to go to town and bring it back,” Spates noted. “He's going to pay….”

“For 24 hours,” council member Donald L. Hunter concluded.

“Yes, he's going to pay for the whole day,” Spates agreed.

Town officials have conferred with the Virginia Municipal League and conclude there is no liability problem if those using the vehicle sign the proper release form.

“If you use this release form and limit the hours. It's not an overnight vehicle…It's used to run to town, take care of your business and then come back,” the town manager said.

“Who would be in charge?” asked Vice-Mayor Armstead D. Reid.

The Town employee at the airport, Spates answered.

“They would actually sign out. It would not be an overnight thing,” the town manager continued. “It would just be during the day to run into town and take care of your business. If they want to use it overnight they've got to get a rental car.”

Council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon, who would cast the lone No vote, asked how often the vehicle would be used.

“It averages two, maybe three times a week, somebody lands out there and can't get to town,” Mayor Newman replied.

Dr. Gordon questioned the Town taking on a liability when pilots could call a rental car agency.

Reid refer to the Virginia Municipal League's (VML) conclusion that there were no liability problems if the appropriate release form was used to borrow the vehicle for no more than several hours as proposed.

“VML says it's fine…As a matter of fact they're the ones that drew up the contract and I had Don (Town Attorney Donald C. Blessing) look at it,” Spates said, adding, “We have somebody there (at the airport). They have to have it (the vehicle) back by the time our man leaves.”

The courtesy car hasn't caused dilemmas in the past, according to Mayor Newman.

“We haven't had any problems whatsoever the way it has been working. It has been working from 9 to 5 and we haven't had the first problem that I know of,” he said.

Vice-Mayor Reid then put a motion of approval on the table.

“I think that being a lot of business people are coming into town I'll make a motion that we have the use of the courtesy car,” he said.

Hunter seconded the motion, Dr. Gordon voted No, and the motion took off.