Tallulah gets review from Mayor Flaggs

Published 10:14 am Tuesday, July 28, 2015

LOOKING AHEAD: Mayor George Flaggs Jr., left, and airport director Randy Woods discuss the future of Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport Monday. (Justin Sellers/ The Vicksburg Post)

LOOKING AHEAD: Mayor George Flaggs Jr., left, and airport director Randy Woods discuss the future of Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport Monday. (Justin Sellers/ The Vicksburg Post)

MOUND, La. —If he were to vote today, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said, he would keep Vicksburg Municipal Airport open.
His decision came after he and City Attorney Nancy Thomas met with Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport director Randy Woods and toured the airport.
Flaggs called Vicksburg-Tallulah the future for the area’s aviation business, “But it is not ready to accommodate the planes we have at Vicksburg if we closed Vicksburg Municipal Airport.”
“It’s safer; it’s a better airport, but it may be two, three years away before it can accept the planes we have at the municipal airport. It makes no economic sense to close it (Vicksburg municipal) at this time.
“The bottom line is whether or not we need two airports today, and the answer is yes,” he said.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen are expected to meet Aug. 10 with Federal Aviation Administration officials about Vicksburg Municipal and vote Aug. 17 whether to close it.
Flaggs said a decision could come sooner, “If the other two members of the board agree (with him), we’ll cancel the meeting with the FAA.”
He said the reason for keeping the municipal airport open is the lack of hangars at Vicksburg-Tallulah, or VTR, as it’s called, to accommodate the planes displaced by closing Vicksburg Municipal Airport.
“This airport has the potential for being the solo airport for Vicksburg and Tallulah,” Flaggs said.
“The problem is, they’re not ready, as we speak, to transition the planes from Vicksburg, and when you look at the timetable, it will take at least three years,” he said.
Woods said he wants to expand hangar space at the airport by building 10 T-hangars, adding he presently has 16 pilots on a waiting list for hangars — five of them from Vicksburg.
The problem, he said, is getting the four partners that own the airport to pay about $200,000 each to cover the estimated $750,000 to build the hangars. “The (VTR board) has to go to the owners (for the funding). The board has done everything it can to push the hangars forward,” he said.
The city owns one-quarter of VTR with Warren County, Madison Parish, La., and Tallulah, La.
“I think the problem has been mostly on this side of the (Mississippi) river,” Woods said. “They (Tallulah and Madison Parish) don’t have a whole lot of funds and that’s been a sizeable problem in itself.”
Woods said he has examined several options, including borrowing money to build hangars.
Flaggs indicated the city might be willing to pay its share.
“We need to see what Tallulah and Madison Parish and Warren County are willing to fund up,” Flaggs said. “The decision to close the airport does not rest solely on the city making a request to the FAA. This (the hangars) is a new hurdle. The first thing we need to do is get them to commit to $750,000 to do these hangars.”
Besides discussing the hangar shortage, Woods presented a fact sheet showing the number of operations the airport handled during 2014, the number of aircraft based at the facility and the total amount in FAA and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development grants for the airport.
According to the VTR sheet, the airport handled 3,500 local and 11,000 transient operations in 2014 and 26 planes based at the airport.
It received $3.45 million in grants from the FAA and LDOTD which paid 100 percent for all work to improve the airport, including the installation of approach lighting and a glide slope.

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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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