June 11, 2014 Edition

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Progress made to replace
damaged airport lighting

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge Airport Commission Chairman Dan Coker said he spoke with State Police about the recent vandalism on runway lighting during Monday's meeting.

While the investigation is ongoing, the commission has been given approval to clean up the site of the vandalism and work to replace the damaged lighting.

Airport Manager Michelle Anthony said they have ordered replacement lighting for the ODAL (Omni-Directional Approach Lights) system at the cost of $33,000. The new lights are expected to arrive within the next two to three weeks.

Coker said the first suspect the police were pursuing had an alibi but it was his understanding that a second suspect is being investigated. Coker said he didn't know who was being investigated and didn't want to know. "Until they get something concrete I'd rather not hear names."

Commissioners discussed adding to the reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandal or vandals, which currently is set at $1,000, but tabled it until the next meeting.

A proposal to install security fencing at the airport was further discussed. Anthony gave an estimate of what it would cost to fence the entire airport at over $500,000 as a jumping off point. Commissioners agreed that if they were to install fencing, it would be limited to certain sections of the airport.

Coker said it was important for them to prioritize their spending going forward. While this act of vandalism was significant, it's the only significant one he could recall in recent history that could be classified as such. "Fencing won't make us any money, but a building will," he said.

In other business:

  • Coker read a letter from Allied Ag Cat regarding unwillingness to pay property taxes on a building being rented through the airport. According to the lease, the renter is responsible for paying those taxes. Commissioner Don Cavenaugh suggested a written reply explaining their expectations and payment requirements. The commission approved the suggestion.

  • Anthony announced that an earthquake drill will be conducted at the airport on June 16. The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management has been working with Anthony to set up the drill.

  • Coker said that due to the increased rainfall, Anthony has been authorized to hire extra workers as needed to help maintain overgrowing grass at the airport.

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