City seeking bids for work at Vicksburg airport

Published 9:58 am Friday, June 12, 2015

TAKING OFF: A small plane takes off above the terminal at Vicksburg Municipal Airport Thursday.

TAKING OFF: A small plane takes off above the terminal at Vicksburg Municipal Airport Thursday.


Vicksburg Municipal Airport may be a possible site for the city’s proposed sports complex, but that isn’t stopping the Board of Mayor and Aldermen from continuing projects to improve safety for the pilots using it.

The board Wednesday authorized City Clerk Walter Osborne to advertise for bids to remove trees from the airport’s north runway and install a precision approach path indicator at the airport. The project is funded in part by a $144,675 Federal Aviation Administration grant, which will pay 95 percent of the costs.

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Presently, the airport property is one of three sites under consideration, and until a decision is reached, North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said, the city still needs to meet FAA requirements while the site search is underway.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

“It’s a safety issue while people are still flying,” City Attorney Nancy Thomas said. “Until they quit flying, we have to be safety-conscious and do what has to be required to make it safe.”

The board’s action came six days after Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the property was under consideration as a site for the proposed recreation complex. Flaggs followed his comments with a June 8 letter to Mayfield, South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson and other members of the city’s site selection committee formally asking them to consider the airport property as a possible site. Besides Mayfield and Thompson, Warren County Supervisors John Arnold and Bill Lauderdale and county administrator John Smith sit on the committee.

Built in 1948, the airport was the center of a controversy in the late 1990s to close it in favor of the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport in Mound, La., which is jointly owned by the city, Warren County, Tallulah, La., and Madison Parish.

The municipal airport sits on about 200 acres of land, most of it flat. It has a two-story, 2,450-square-foot terminal building and a 25,000-gallon aviation fuel facility. The board Wednesday took under advisement a bid to renovate the terminal’s second floor for a multipurpose room.

According to information from the city’s accounting office, the airport has run deficits of $126,200 in 2011, $78,912.58 in 2012, and $121,606.81 in 2103. It is anticipated to run a deficit for fiscal 2014, but the total is unknown, pending completion of the 2014 audit report.

One of the problems with the airport facing city officials is whether the city will be responsible for reimbursing a total $813,794 in federal funds provided by the FAA to improve airport facilities. Flaggs said he is investigating that situation.

The board in April reopened the search for a site for the proposed sports complex after residents expressed concern over a report by Diamante Global/JCI Holdings LLC, the city’s consultant for the sports complex site, recommended the city’s property on Fisher Ferry Road as the most cost-effective site to build a sports complex. The residents cited concerns about traffic on Halls Ferry Road, the most direct route to the Fisher Ferry property.

One of the residents at the meeting asked the board to consider the airport property for the sports complex.

The city’s site selection committee is considering two other sites for the complex, one southeast of the airport on Ring Road and another near the intersection of Mississippi 27 and U.S. 80, but weather has prevented committee members from examining the sites.

“Whenever it stops raining, we are going to go down and look at the properties,” Mayfield said, adding the committee needs about four to five days of sunny weather to dry out the sites.

In May 2014, Flaggs appointed a committee to examine the city’s recreation program and the need for a sports complex for the city. The committee in December released a report recommending a multipurpose recreation complex on 270 acres of land featuring baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts, a walking trail and a multipurpose building with an indoor swimming pool.

Flaggs has set a $20 million budget for the project, and has discussed doing a lease/purchase venture with a private company to build and manage the facility and lease it back to the city.

The Legislature in March approved a local and private bill allowing the city, with voter approval, to levy up to a 2 mill hotel and food and beverage tax to fund the complex. A referendum on the tax is tentatively set for Jan. 12.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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