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Cargo airport testimony completed in Schuylkill County

Published April 19. 2012 05:01PM

Testimony was completed before the Schuylkill County Zoning Hearing Board Wednesday evening at the courthouse in Pottsville on the application of Gladstone Partners, of Pittsburgh, which is seeking a special exception to the Schuylkill County Zoning Ordinance to construct a cargo airport on land mostly in East Union Township.

Hearings have been going on over a year and were held up when East Union Township Supervisors attempted to block the county zoning hearing board from hearing the application because the township had named its own zoning hearing board and wanted its board to hold the hearing. The county court ruled in favor of the county board.

With all testimony in, Attorney Christopher Hobbs, solicitor for the board, announced the board will close out the hearings next month by holding an open meeting to allow any persons with standings on the issue speak out, also, attorneys for the litigating parties will have 30 days after the final hearing to submit briefs to support their testimony and then the board will render a decision on the application.

Service Electric Cablevision, a television cable provider to communities in the area where the airport is planned has been one of the key objectors to the site for the airport and had presented expert witnesses to show how planes arriving and departing could interfere with the cable service in the area. The two witnesses who had testified at the last hearing were back on the witness stand under cross examination Attorney Fred Fanelli, counsel for the applicant.

Fanelli solicited information from the witnesses showing Service Electric has spent more than $100,000 for their expert testimony. Phillip A. Ruben, of Washington, D.C. a telecommunications engineer, who specializes in designing satellites, testified he is paid $500 per hour for testifying and Edward Nasuti, consulting engineer, who specializes in airport engineer planning, said he receives $168 per hour.

Ruben had previously testified he based his testimony on simulating various landing procedures and came to a conclusion that they would interfere with the signal receiving by the satellite farm consisting on a number of satallite dishes which obtain signals from the space satellite which are located in the area for the proposed airport.

He was questioned would it not have been cheaper to have a plane landing and taking off on the site to determine if signals were affected. He claimed it could not be as conclusive a result as having a computer conduct thousands of simulated landings and takeoffs. He also defended that altimeters on planes could disrupt signals.

Nasuti had testified the information in the application was not sufficient for the board to reach a decision. He had claimed there should have been concluded a preliminary engineering report on environmental assessment, a survey map, storm water runoffs. He was asked why such a report was needed for the site of the airport which is proposed to be built on a plateau surrounded by old stripping diggings and highways. He agreed that there was testimony that the airport would have its own security and fire department.

He corrected counsel that FAA does issue licenses for airports in Pennsylvania, it is done by Pennsylvania Department of Aviation. FAA only certifies the airport meets all its are requirements especially to flight plans.

Michael Marsicano, Hazleton, a veteran pilot who flew commercial planes, helicopters as a state policeman and for years captained the airplane which flew New York Yankees to different cities. Marsicano testified the runaways for the proposed airport would run east and west and would not impact residential areas. He said by making steep takeoffs the planes could turn before going over the Village of Sheppton or the Eagle Rock Resorts development. It also could avoid flying over the cable company's satellite farm.

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