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City taking bids for improvements at local airport

[10/9/04]After years of litigation and with a threat of closure looming for a decade, improvements, instead, will be coming at airport Vicksburg owns on U.S. 61 South.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Friday to advertise for construction bids for the first phase of work at Vicksburg Municipal. The work is being funded by a $650,000 state grant awarded to the city last year.

City officials made no comments during the meeting Friday, but in accepting the grant the city has committed to maintaining the municipal airport for seven more years.

At various times since 1983, city officials have intended to close the city airport, built in 1950, in favor of boosting business at Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional eight miles away a Mound, La., of which the city is one-fourth owner.

In fact, it was a 1998 2-1 vote by a previous administration that initiated litigation by a user group to keep the city airport operational. Eventually, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled the city may, indeed, close the airport, but administrations and minds have changed.

Last week, Mayor Laurence Leyens flew to Washington D.C., with a local group to meet with Mississippi’s congressional delegation about putting the 54-year-old municipal airport back on the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, a necessary step to seek federal funding through the Federal Aviation Administration.

The current airport project is the first of a three-phase, $3.3 million improvement plan that includes rehabilitating the runway pavement, applying sealcoat over the taxiway pavement, improving approach slopes and improving the north runway safety area. Safety at the municipal airport had been a part of rift between supporters of the two airports.

After the litigation ended, the debate about whether the city should support two airports didn’t. Executives of LeTourneau Inc., threatened to leave Warren County, taking 1,000 jobs, if the municipal airport just minutes from their facility on the Mississippi River was closed. LeTourneau has pledged to make $1 million in improvements and create an additional 33 jobs at its facility under terms of the state grant for the airport.

The other owners of VTR are Warren County, Tallulah and Madison Parish. Each pays an operational subsidy to its management board which includes delegates from both states.

In other matters the city board:

Accepted the recommendations from the Zoning Board of Appeals to amend city zoning codes. The new rules will prohibit bars that do not sell alcohol in the downtown district and all the city to tear down billboard signs inside the city limits but not on the highways in about five years.

Declared some of the old, concrete post street signs surplus and authorized the street department to dispose of them.

Appointed Tasha Wynn as deputy city clerk.

Approved the board meeting minutes from Sept. 20.

Approved the purchase of seven pickups for $111,894 under state contract.

Approved a request from Hinds Community College and the Vicksburg Campus Phi Beta Lambda Club to use the plaza at Washington and Crawford streets on Oct. 15 for a March of Dimes fund raiser.

Approved a request to purchase items for the third annual city Harvest Festival from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 28 at City Park.

The city board will meet again at 10 a.m. Oct. 18 at City Hall Annex.