Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Councilman: Municipal airport in poor condition

Blytheville Municipal Airport  (KHKA),  Arkansas

Eventually, the city of Blytheville may need a new municipal airport facility.

Guided by Sam Jackson, Councilman Kevin Snow, chairman of the Airport and Utilities Committee, recently toured the city-owned Blytheville Municipal Airport, which Snow said is in dire need of work.

Snow told the Airport and Utilities Committee Tuesday night that the hangars have dirt floors and no electricity.

He noted some renters have moved their aircraft to the Aeroplex because of the condition of the hangars, including one who left after mice kept getting in his plane.

"To say the least, that place out there is in bad shape," Snow said, noting the facility is missing out on revenue because of its deteriorating condition.

He added there are several empty hangars, and the ones occupied have low rent -- some getting hundreds a month less than hangars at the Jonesboro airport. The Kennett airport is also able to charge a higher rate than Blytheville because it is in better shape, according to Snow.

Snow said the city asset has been neglected too long, and the airport doesn't have the revenue to perform the needed work.

"He (Jackson) said this is an asset for the city -- and I agree -- that we need to take care of," Snow said. "In the end, this could be revenue-producing. It could be self-supporting and still bring money into the community."

Councilman Stan Parks said, "For some people flying in, it's their first impression of the city."

Snow noted in the past, the facility has utilized some grants for specific work like runway lighting and fencing.

He said the airport could seek a 10 percent matching grant, where, for instance, if the city puts down $30,000, the remaining $300,000 would be funded by the grant.

"He (Jackson) said -- and I probably agree -- that it would be cheaper in the long run just to build a new one," Snow said. "I don't think it's worth throwing money at this one."

Councilman John Musgraves suggested getting an estimate to rebuild and seeking grant funding.

"It's something that's going to take an investment," Snow said. "It's not something we can do right away this year. Don't get the wrong idea that I'm trying to push that. I'm not by any means. This is something that we need to be looking at because it's city property, and there's also negligence on the city's part if something happened to somebody."

He said the Airport Commission has invited Council members to attend its monthly meetings, and Snow plans to begin going to those meeting. The Airport Commission meets at noon on the second Tuesday of each month at the Holiday Inn.

Snow said Jackson is sending him the airport's financials for review as well.

He noted the airport manager, Jimmy Edwards, who doesn't draw a salary, lives out of town, but still helps out with the operations.


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