June 30, 2010 Edition

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Airport and county club
work toward new lease

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Both the Walnut Ridge Country Club members and the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission have been working diligently to come up with a lease for the 10 acres the clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis courts occupy. The Federal Aviation Administration has to approve any lease the airport can offer the club.

At a special meeting on June 24, the commissioners met with Mayor Michelle Rogers and Country Club Board Member Greg Gill. Gill and several other club members have been in the process of removing trees and tee boxes in order to bring the safety zones for Runway 18-36 into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

"We have removed 80 trees," Gill told the commission. "The tree stumps and tee boxes still have to be removed, but we will get that done soon."

He said club members needed to know about a new lease as soon as possible. They have to renew their liquor license and get the swimming pool ready for the summer. The license has to be renewed by today at a cost of $1,500.

Mayor Rogers, the commission and club members agreed that all parties have shown good faith in efforts to bring the airport into compliance and to establish a new lease for the club.

The first step in acquiring a new lease will be a letter from the mayor to the FAA manager asking for permission to lease the acreage to the country club. The letter will explain that the club is a nonprofit organization that enhances life for the community, and the clubhouse, tennis courts and swimming pool in no way interfere with the airport.

Commissioners Dan Coker, Dr. Ralph Joseph, Harry Hicks and Sam Massey met with John Knight, director of the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics, in Little Rock on Monday to discuss the proposed lease.

"It was a productive meeting," Coker said on Tuesday. "The letter from Mayor Rogers and a copy of the proposed lease must be submitted to the FAA in Ft. Worth for their approval."

Airport Commission Chairman Hal Lady said one possibility would be to start with a month-to-month lease. A short-term lease would allow everyone involved time to evaluate such an agreement without making a long-term commitment.

The commission hopes a longer-term lease for the club will be available in the future, a lease similar to the ones of other airport tenants. Planning regarding the future of the golf course will begin at a later date.

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