Airport, City Council to hold work session on Monday

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – City and airport officials, who remain at odds over the airport’s management style and renovation plans, are expected to meet Monday to hash out their differences.
City Council President Fred Pitts called a work session between the council and Tupelo Regional Airport officials for 4 p.m. at City Hall. A special-called meeting will follow so the council can reconsider the $1.8 million federal grant for airport property renovations that a majority of members had rejected Tuesday.
In their rejection, council members said they felt pressured to rush into a decision and raised questions about the airport’s policies and management style.
The grant, which required a 2.5 percent municipal match, would fund security system improvements, taxiway rehabilitation, concrete apron expansions and a new air-conditioning system.
Although some of those repairs would directly benefit the airport, others would improve facilities used by a private company – Universal Asset Management – that leases some of the airport’s property.
If the council still refuses to approve the grant, it will be responsible for some of those improvements itself, Pitts said.
“We committed to UAM to do some … improvements to the property when we committed to the lease,” he said. “There’s also the $500,000 overage on the runway expansion project,” which is part of another grant already approved by the federal government but awaiting the council’s OK.
Although airport Executive Director Josh Abramson had said Tuesday the $1.8 million grant required immediate approval, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said the council has until midnight on Monday to reverse its decision. After that, the grant will be lost.
“We owe it to the taxpayers to seriously consider this,” Reed said. “It would be shame to not have one more serious conversation to make sure everybody understands the consequences.”
Pitts said the meeting came at the request of Tupelo Airport Authority Chairman Ty Robinson, and he believes a majority of both board’s members will attend. Also expected to attend, Pitts said, are city attorney John Hill and Community Development Foundation Chairman and CEO David Rumbarger.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com