November 16, 2011 Edition

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WR airport makes
adjustments in plan

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Old and crumbling lighting system circuits have caused the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission to alter its five-year capital improvement plan so work on the systems can begin as soon as money is available.

Airport Commissioner Mitch Whitmire said runway lights have been flickering, and some wires are starting to ground out, causing a potential safety hazard.

"We want to install LED lighting, which is more energy efficient, two new voltage regulators and all new wiring," said Whitmire.

It will take two to three years and cost up to $300,000 to replace the system.

The airport receives $150,000 each year in airport improvement funds from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). During the two-year legal battle with the Walnut Ridge Country Club, the FAA suspended AIP funds.

Whitmire said he will see if there is any way the airport can recoup some of the money it would have gotten during those two years to help pay for the system upgrade.

Planned repairs to the airport's apron will have to wait.

Commissioner Frank Wilson asked Whitmire if the apron, which has serious structural flaws, can last another two or three years before it's repaired.

"It's hard to determine how the damaged concrete will react to cold and warm weather during the next couple of years," Whitmire said.

Whitmire told commissioners the drainage repair project on the runways is behind schedule. The project was to be completed in 150 days. It has already been 120 days and little work has been completed, he said.

"A certified letter has been sent to the contractor informing them about the lack of progress," Whitmire said.

Bids for engineering services will be posted this week.

The contract for ETI, the airport's engineering firm, is about to expire, and commission chair Dan Coker said it is subject to bid.

The airport must have an engineering firm in place by Dec. 18 or ongoing projects at the airport will have to be suspended.

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