September11, 2013 Edition

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WR Airport commission discusses repairs

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer
Walnut Ridge Airport Commissioners are in the process of trying to find room for four new businesses at the airport, renewing leases and continuing with improvements to the ramps and lighting.

The airport has an ongoing problem with the lighting on runway 18-36, and Chairman Dan Coker told the commission he estimates it will cost approximately $363,000 to get the lighting replaced in the manner they would like.

The airport receives $150,000 yearly from the Airport Improvement Program, federal money that can only be used for improvements to the airport. The Walnut Ridge Airport currently has $197,000 in their AIP account and will receive another $150,000 next month.

"We can either take that money and do the lighting project and let needed ramp repairs go for several years, or apply for an 80/20 grant from the Department of Aeronautics to do the lighting and continue working on the ramp with our AIP funds," Coker said.

The 80/20 grant through the state would require that the airport take out a loan and pay for the work themselves, and then the state would reimburse the airport for 80 percent of the cost when the job is completed.

The airport's engineer, Stacey Morris, met with Coker and Airport Manager Michelle Anthony recently and recommended they apply for the 80/20 grant for the lighting and continue to use AIP money for other repairs.

Anthony and Commissioner Billie Gail Dunlap will be attending the Arkansas Airport Operators Association meeting in Eureka Springs next week, and will have an opportunity to speak with John Knight, director of the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics, and Ed Agnew, manager of the Federal Aviation Administration in Little Rock. They hope to get input and suggestions from the two men about funding for the airport.

Further discussion and action on the subject was tabled until after the AAOA meeting.

Commissioners were addressed by David Watson of Hoxie, who would like to start an aviation shop at the airport

I would like to open a maintenance facility here," Watson said. "I feel that it would benefit the airport and bring in new customers."

Watson has been in aviation since 1998, and would need a building to house planes, as well as an office space. He would like to lease the former Arkansas Turbine Shop when it becomes available.

Coker told Watson and the commission that there are four businesses interested in locating at the airport, and he thinks there is room for all of them.

"We just need a little time to figure out where to put everyone," he said. "We need to get you on the agenda for next month or the month after that."

Repairs to the roof of a building leased to V&B Manufacturing were discussed and agreed on.

"They have several leaks that have to be repaired and we are responsible for paying for the work," Coker told the commission. "The total cost of repairs is $27,210. We can't afford to do it all at once, so I asked them to prioritize the damage so we can begin with the worst problem and make the repairs as we can afford it."

The lease on the building has expired, and the commission agreed to renew the lease with a $200 a month increase, effective immediately, to help pay for repairs.

Anthony informed the commission that an asset list for the airport was prepared for the city's audit. "The totals were $3 million in buildings, a half million in land and $1 million in equipment," she said. "The city needed a copy for the auditors."

Last week the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission held a special meeting to hear from representatives of Allied Ag Cat. 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.

During this week's meeting, Coker announced that he took the company's proposal to the airport's attorney, who is requiring additional information. In addition, four other companies are interested in locating at the airport. Coker said the interested businesses would be easy to accommodate in little time. Both discussions were tabled.

In other business the commission:

  • agreed hangar rental fees will remain the same for next year and to allow fees to be paid monthly, quarterly or yearly. The hangars are currently all rented but three will become available in November.
  • voted in favor of a $200 increase on West Machine Shop's building. That lease had also expired but payments have continued to be made to the airport.
  • asked Commissioner Sam Massey to talk to Dan West about repairing the airport's tetrahedron.
  • heard an update from Anthony on the Customer Service Committee's future plans. Chairman Coker told the commission that the committee is doing a good job, and several of their projects are already bringing pilots back to the Walnut Ridge Airport.
  • voted in favor of selling a Gradall to the county for $1,000. It is no longer used or needed at the airport.
  • heard plans for the airport's participation in the Beatles at the Ridge Festival and the airfield reunion in April.
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