City inks VTR deal, leaves only Warren County

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Warren County Board of Supervisors is the only one of four owners not to sign a five-year management deal of the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport in Mound, La., following approval of the contract by the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday.

Richard George, District 5 supervisor and president of the county board, said the issue would likely be discussed at a planning session on Thursday, but could not be voted on until the next scheduled meeting, on June 1.

“We just got the draft they sent us — apparently the rendition they want approved — and we want to go over it with our (VTR) board representative, Mr. (Dan) Fordice, before we agree to it,” George said.

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A 25-year agreement was inked in founding the airport by Vicksburg, Warren County, Tallulah and Madison Parish in 1983. The agreement bound the four governments to split costs not covered by operational income at the airport through the end of 2008. Those costs had long averaged $20,000 to $30,000 per owner per year, but have increased in recent years to $40,000 to $50,000.

Just weeks before the contract was set to renew at 25 years, representatives from the four boards met at the airport and verbally agreed to a five-year contract. Mayor Laurence Leyens said the 25-year contract tied the hands of each member without any benefit.

City Attorney Nancy Thomas said she received notice about three weeks ago that the Tallulah City Council and Madison Parish Police Jury had agreed to the five-year contract.

Vicksburg began taking a renewed interest in Vicksburg Municipal Airport on U.S. 61 South in October, making it an official department of the city and taking over all administrative duties from its board — which now serves solely as an advisory panel. The Vicksburg Municipal terminal is currently being gutted for rehabilitation, and an ambitious 20-year plan featuring a new runway capable of handling commercial air traffic has been developed. The city has received a $262,206 Delta Regional Authority grant to purchase and clear 19-acres of land north of the runway, as well as install fencing that meets FAA requirements, and survey work has begun on the project. Curt Follmer, a retired casino executive, has been the airport’s general manager since October.

Construction of VTR, about 8 miles west of Vicksburg, originally grew out of a study on whether improvements could be made to Vicksburg Municipal, built on U.S. 61 South in 1950. That study revealed FAA grants were available for new construction of regional facilities, and elected officials at that time saw it as an opportunity to get an all-new, expandable airport.

Warren County supervisors threatened pulling out of the regional deal several times. Ten years ago, Vicksburg officials voted to close the city’s airport. That led to a lawsuit by industrialists, businessmen and civilian pilots who favored Vicksburg Municipal and continued to operate it, privately, for four years. In 2002, the state Supreme Court ruled the city had the authority to close the airport, but a new administration favored keeping it open.


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