September 2, 2015 Edition

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Airport facility expansion revisited

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge Airport Commission revisited the possibility of an Allied AgCat expansion during the Aug. 25 meeting.

The original plan was for a new 36,000-square-foot building to be constructed through grants and leased to Allied AgCat. However, the project would cost upwards of $2 million, which exceeds the amount that could be received through grants. Instead, a new proposal to expand the existing building Allied AgCat is leasing by constructing an 18,000-square-foot addition on the back of the building is under consideration.

According to Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp, the addition should still qualify for grant funding.

The commissioners voted to move forward on research for price estimates, lease adjustments and available grants.

"There's still a lot of hurdles to go through," Snapp said.

The new expanded business would center on remanufacturing and shipping aircraft and could add 20-25 jobs for the area, according to Snapp.

"I think it's a good project," commission chair Don Cavenaugh said.

In other business, the commission reviewed a proposed land swap with the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce on 55 acres of farmland it owns in an approach zone at the airport.

The original plan was an acre-for-acre swap of farmland. Instead a swap including approximately five to six acres of commercial land, located next to Custom-Pak, has been proposed. The new swap, if agreed upon, would require an appraisal on the commercial property to determine how many acres of farmland it is worth. The rest of the acreage traded to the Chamber would be farmland to reach the same value of the 55 acres the airport is getting.

The commission voted to pursue the new land swap with the Chamber, which will still have to be approved by both parties.

Cavenaugh said the swap would provide better farmland for the airport and get the approach zone back in the airport's control while also providing more commercially valuable property for the Chamber.

Also at the meeting, commissioners:

voted to proceed to turn in grant applications and move forward on a bidding process for a new fuel farm, the tanks used to house the airport's fuel. Airport Manager Michelle Anthony said a replacement is desperately needed as the 45-year-old tanks are showing signs of leaking and rusting.

agreed to advertize for a five-year-lease on 900 acres of farmland. The bid date was set for Sept. 30.

approved the clean up of some properties on the northwest corner of the regional airport to make better use of them.

were informed that the Walnut Ridge City Council approved the concrete project, which will be funded through a Airport Improvement Program grant.

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