Make an informed decision: Airport tours should be made by entire board

Published 10:59 am Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The decision by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. to visit the Vicksburg Municipal Airport and Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport in the wake of last Thursday’s public hearing is a good move.

Flaggs’ said he was influenced by the issues brought up at the hearing, in which people for and against closing the airport aired their views, raising more questions than answers by the end of the meeting.

“Because the public hearing went so well, and so much information was given, I am reluctant to go fast, because this is a decision that I don’t think this board, particularly myself, can be wrong about,” Flaggs said. “We must be right, and I believe in order to be right we must know all the facts.

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“I just don’t think I can pull the trigger, make a decision without at least making a visit and ask the questions that came out of the public hearing.”

And although he’s flown into both airports, the mayor said he has never sat down with the airport directors and talked with them about their facilities and how they operate and enhance the area’s economic development.

Flaggs is about to find out. He visits the municipal airport Friday and is expected to go across the Mississippi River and visit Vicksburg-Tallulah Monday. He’s visiting both with City Attorney Nancy Thomas, but he needs two other companions — the city’s two Aldermen, Michael Mayfield and Willis Thompson.

Since their votes will be crucial in whether Vicksburg Municipal Airport remains open, they need to be with the mayor when he makes his visits.

Mayfield has two phrases he likes to use when it comes to the city looking at projects, “We need boots on the ground,” and “I need to eyeball it.” He and Thompson need to put their “boots on the ground” and “eyeball” both airports to get a good idea of how each contributes to the area and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Like Flaggs, they need as much information as possible on both airports if they are going to make an intelligent decision.

On the face, the decision whether to close the city’s airport seems simple: It’s almost 60 years old, has limited room for expansion, and has its weaknesses.

But it’s the unseen issues like how the potential effect economic development and the future of the city’s growth and development could be affected by closing the airport. Not to mention the challenge of replacing the airport with something viable that can provide tax income and jobs for the city.

“What we have to do is not make a political vote,” Flaggs said. “We must make a vote that’s in the best interest of the city, based on the facts. It is clear to me that if the FAA closes down the Vicksburg Airport, it will be permanent.”

And the effect could be more than a few displaced pilots.