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Ruling leaves city free to close airport

The state Supreme Court will not reconsider its October decision that Vicksburg’s city government may close Vicksburg Municipal Airport, justices said Thursday.

The high court’s action means that a Warren County Circuit Court injunction in force for five years will be lifted, leaving the city free to close the airport. The injunction against closing the facility, on U.S. 61 South, was granted in 1998 at the request of a group of about 16 Vicksburg businessmen.

The same group also appealed the board’s decision to the Supreme Court and then, after being ruled against in October, asked the high court to reconsider its opinion.

In all, six lawsuits have been filed by attorneys for both sides along with multiple appeals and cross-appeals.

The airport remains open despite the city Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s 1998 vote to close it. With Tallulah, Warren County and Madison Parish, the city also helps support a regional airport at Mound that opened in the 1980s.

Vicksburg discontinued funding the Mound airport from the time the first lawsuit was filed until the Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport Authority was formed in 1999. Warren County also held funding for the airport to avoid being caught up in the suits, but also resumed funding after the authority was formed.

Of the two Vicksburg elected officials who made up the 1998 majority that voted to close the airport, neither remains in office. Neither of their successors, Mayor Laurence Leyens and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, has said whether he would now vote to close the facility.

“As long as there is no other demand for that land, we’re not going to push (the airport) off,” Mayor Laurence Leyens has said.

“I haven’t given it a lot of thought,” Beauman has said.

Alderman Gertrude Young, the lone dissenter in the 1998 vote, has said she still supports keeping the airport open.

The Supreme Court’s October decision resolved two Warren County Circuit Court cases that were combined. It said the board was neither “arbitrary nor capricious” when it voted in February 1998 to close the airport the next month.

Robert Walker and Sam Habeeb, who were then mayor and South Ward Alderman respectively, said at the time that the land would be used to develop an industrial park. All sites along Haining Road at the Vicksburg Harbor were in use and, as is the case today, there was no land for expansion.

Today, however, the closings of some local industries have left some vacant sites.

Both airports have 5,000-foot runways and are used mainly by small passenger aircraft, trainers and charter flights, their managers said. Neither is served by a commercial airline.