City hires ‘Bama consultant for work at municipal airport

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Birmingham consultant with 38 years of experience in the aviation industry was contracted by the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen Friday to help develop short- and long-range plans for the Vicksburg Municipal Airport — which the board has taken over as a city department and is remodeling.

Excel Aviation Consulting Service will be paid $105 per hour for its services, which Mayor Laurence Leyens said will include finding a manager or fixed-based operator for the airport and developing a 20-year plan.

“We have got to have somebody to help us develop a plan for the airport who has experience and contacts in the aviation industry,” said Leyens. “We don’t have anybody on our staff right now like that.”

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Excel’s founder and president, Loyce Clark, visited Vicksburg and the airport recently, and said he feels the facility has a lot of potential for growth and success.

“The Vicksburg Municipal Airport has a great opportunity to infuse the local economy with local jobs and increase the revenue base while addressing and enhancing the needs of the community,” Clark said, whose resume includes consultant on expansions for the Birmingham International Airport.

Leyens said the board met with Clark about contracting his consulting firm after the Federal Aviation Administration gave Clark a high recommendation among other consultants the city had contacted.

Clark said he anticipates making several visits to Vicksburg in the coming months, although no schedule has been set for his first paid consultation.

The board officially made the airport the city’s 17th department on Friday. While the city has always been responsible for the final oversight of the airport, the facility’s five-member board formerly was responsible for paying for utilities and selling fuel. The board will remain in place as an advisory panel, but the city will have control over spending and operations.

The city’s current budget includes $200,000 for the airport, and it recently began renovating the facility’s aging terminal. The city received about $1.3 million in federal grant money following Hurricane Katrina to build a new fire station at the airport on U.S. 61 South. The money was a part of the total $5.2 million awarded to Warren County, and city officials decided to use part of the money to raze the existing terminal and build a new one. However, when an architect’s estimate was nearly three times the expected cost, a decision was made to remodel.

The city’s renewed interest in the airport marks another shift in its stance on the facility through the years. In 1983, four local governments — Vicksburg, Warren County, Tallulah and Madison Parish — accepted $6 million in federal funds for a new, expandable airport to be built at Mound When VTR opened in 1993, Vicksburg Municipal was taken off the FAA’s list of airports eligible for improvements — deeming VTR to be the facility to serve the area.

In 1998 the board of mayor and aldermen — under a different administration — voted 2-1 to close Vicksburg Municipal, initiating a nearly four-year legal battle with local business interests wishing to keep the airport open. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that city officials had the authority to close the airport, but under a new administration the board chose to keep Vicksburg Municipal open for at least seven more years.

Meanwhile, the city is renegotiating its contract with its three other operating partners at VTR, hoping to agree on a 10-year contract instead of one that would require the city to help fund VTR for 25 years. The city spends about $30,000 on VTR.

City spending $4,000 for welcoming reception

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed to spend $4,000 to welcome representatives of small municipalities visiting Vicksburg Nov. 5-7.

The Mississippi Municipality League Small Town Conference will be held at the Vicksburg Convention Center. The city money will pay for a reception, for which about 200 people are expected.

“This is very important, and we need to roll out the red carpet for them to support the MML and help promote the city of Vicksburg,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens.

The MML Small Town Conference is designed to allow mayors, supervisors, aldermen, city clerks and other elected and hired officials from small communities around Mississippi to share governing ideas and experiences. The City of Vicksburg is a MML member, and the conference was held in Vicksburg once previously about five years ago, said Leyens. 

On the agenda

On Friday, the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen:

• Acknowledged Linda Ann Headley as the October Senior of the Month.

• Received sealed bids for line item tree removal from Southern Tree Services and McCain Tree Service of Vicksburg, as well as from H.D. Machinery L.L.C. of Meridian and Buckelew Tree Service of Starkville.

• Received sealed bids for a certified DEQ landfill from Warren County Waste Control Inc. for $3 per cubic yard, and from Vicksburg-Warren County Landfill L.L.C. for $2.89 per cubic yard.

• Awarded a sealed bid for an enclosed trailer for the police department to Midway Trailer Inc. of Benton, Mo., for $29,970.

• Awarded a sealed bid for a standby generator for the police department to Electro-Mech Inc. of Ridgeland for $138,265.

• Approved an invoice for capital improvements at the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport for $25,000.

• Heard from Southern Cultural Heritage Center Executive Director Annette Kirklin about upcoming events at the center.

• Approved usage of River Stage Plaza on Saturday for the MUDJAM Music Event.

• Tabled a request from Vicksburg Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. to use Jackson Street Community Center to host a lock-in from 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, until 8 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 26 with Delta GEMS Girls Club, and a request to use a television and VCR to show educational films during the lock-in.

• Approve a request from King Solomon Baptist Church to use the Jackson Street Community Center on Oct. 31 for their Annual Fall Harvest Festival.

• Approved a request for allocation of funds to the following: Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, $7,500 for a semi-annual payment; Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation, $18,750 for fall and winter programming; and Mississippi Municipal League, $8,222 for membership dues.  

• Tabled a request for allocation of funds to Central Mississippi Planning and Development District for $10,311.

• Approved the city’s organizational chart to include the Vicksburg Municipal Airport as an official department of the city.

• Accepted a list of personal property for tax year 2007 and a mobile home listing for tax year 2008.

• Adopted 10-year ad valorem tax exemption orders for Falco Chemical Inc. for $272, 117; PolyVulc USA for $245, 431; and Cooper Lighting for $1,777,872.

• Authorized the mayor to execute a clinical education agreement for the Affiliation of Students for Clinical Training with the Emergency Medical Technology Program at Hinds Community College for EMT training.

• Authorized the mayor to execute with Dean Anderson, education and compliance coordinator, for the fiscal year 2008 Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Grant Program.   

• Discussed these properties as having dilapidated buildings or overgrown lots, and authorized Director of Buildings and Inspections to cut, clean and/or demolish them: 8500 Browns Alley, 359 Ford Road, 20 Marys Alley, 30 Marys Alley, 63 Browns Alley, 24 Browns Alley and 38 Browns Alley. Also, a property at 1690 Warrenton Road was deemed in compliance with ordinances and removed from a list of non-compliant properties.

• Accepted a letter establishing a special assessment of and adopted an order for demolition and site cleaning of 1715 Lane St., owned by Adel Miller.

• Approved street department employee Derrick Howard to the employee driving list.

• Approved the claims docket.

In closed session, the board:

• Approved hiring of two part-time employees for the police department.

• Approved firing of one employee in the water maintenance department.

• Discussed one legal matter.

The next board meeting will be Oct. 20, at 10 a.m. at City Hall Annex, 1415 Walnut St.