August 28, 2013 Edition

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Airport working with local
business in expansion plan

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge Airport Commission held a special meeting on Monday to hear from representatives of a local aviation business looking to expand.

The company wants to enter a building/land lease with the airport for the parcel of land and building comprising the former Morgan Buildings and Spas compound.

Their proposal includes spending over $400,000 to repair the four buildings, including the old hangar that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It would also provide approximately 25 jobs in the first year, and hopefully more in the future.

When the 25-year lease they hope to gain expires, the company would §have the option to renew it.

Chairman Dan Coker explained that the commission would have to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before they could agree to the company's proposal.

"The United States Government gave this airport to Walnut Ridge, along with pages and pages of rules and regulations as to how it is to be used," Coker said. "There are only a few airports like ours, with the restrictions we have. We would need a copy of your proposal to take to Paul Burns, program manager with the FAA in Little Rock, before we could give you a definite answer."

Company representatives told the commission all they needed for now was the commissioners' verbal agreement to move forward with the project, with the understanding that the FAA would have to approve their plans.

"We will get you a proposal to take to the FAA, and we will move ahead by getting engineer plans and financial agreements in place. We have investors ready to go on this and will have our funding ready in October," the company representative said. "All we need from you today is a verbal agreement from the commission stating that it is in favor of such a lease, knowing that it is contingent on approval from the FAA and any other governmental entities that may be involved."

Commissioners voted in favor of the verbal agreement and will speak with the FAA as soon as they receive a written proposal from the company.

The commission also agreed to contact Grady Auctions to begin the process of auctioning off several items the airport no longer needs. The auction may be done on site or online, whichever the auction company thinks will best benefit the airport.

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