Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Under consideration: Time for planning airport’s fate is now • Vicksburg Municipal (KVKS, Mississippi

Vicksburg Municipal Airport’s fate seems safe for at least a few more years after Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and City Attorney Nancy Thomas took a tour of the competition.

The announcement that Flaggs would vote to keep the city’s airport open might frustrate some who were hoping the city would scrap its municipal airport in favor of Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional in Mound, La., but it’s the right move at the right time.

VTR, Flaggs said “is not ready to accommodate the planes we have at Vicksburg if we closed Vicksburg Municipal Airport.”

The Vicksburg airport, owned solely by the city, has been a top prospect site for placement of a long-discussed, much needed sports complex. But after looking at the price tag of closing the airport — it’s astronomical — and the length of time it would take to close the municipal service, if we want a sportspex for this generation of children, the site is not appropriate.

But that leaves Vicksburg’s taxpayers and us wondering if the city really needs two airports in the long run? Probably not, and VTR seems for now to be the better option.

“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,” Flaggs said.

But Vicksburg needs only one airport in the future. Will it be Vicksburg Municipal or will it be VTR?

The problem hinges on, as many problems do, cash. Four entities each own a quarter of VTR, and while Vicksburg might be prepared to pay its share for upgrades, improvements and additional hangers, the other three — Warren County, Madison Parish, La., and the City of Tallulah, La. — might not be so quick to pony up the cash. Certainly a strong case can and most likely will be made to the Warren County Board of Supervisors. But that still leaves two out of state parties to deal with, and that’s where funding gets tricky. Each owner would have to come up with more than $200,000 for renovations.

“I think the problem has been mostly on this side of the (Mississippi) river,” VTR Manager Randy Woods Woods said. “They (Tallulah and Madison Parish) don’t have a whole lot of funds and that’s been a sizeable problem in itself.”

For Vicksburg and Warren County $200,000 is no drop in the bucket, but for Madison Parish with a population of just more than 11,000, and Tallulah with about 7,300 people, the sum could be a hard sell.

Regardless, the time to start making deals is now, rather than later.

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