TUPELO – Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson asked the City Council to consider granting the airport $500,000 to be put toward a dollar-for-dollar matching grant to help with infrastructure improvements.
The money, if granted, would be combined with a 100 percent match to build a new taxiway where the old runway currently lies, connecting two current airport tenants and a fueling station to the rest of the airport.
The taxiway repair/construction is similar to a capital-improvement project the council refused to approve $1.2 million for late last year. Abramson told the council at a Tuesday work session that the grant will allow the airport to connect a 22-acre tract of economic development land to the rest of the airport.
Currently the tract is only accessible by a gravel taxiway.
The improvement will provide the most benefit to Universal Asset Management but Abramson stressed other tenants would benefit from increased access to fuel and the airport will be able to utilize their economic development land for future development.
Ward 5 Councilman Buddy Palmer expressed concern that UAM’s heavier planes would ultimately damage the new taxiway, but Abramson said the new project will be built to much higher standards.
Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington said he is open to the idea of using a matching grant for the capital improvement.
“I realize the salvation of this airport is to try to develop these 22 acres, and I’m not opposed to this,” he said. “But, I would like to see a little more detailed plan on the 22 acres.”
Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings said the improvement is needed to keep the 80 jobs provided by UAM in Tupelo. Council President Nettie Davis of Ward 4 also expressed her support for the project.
Abramson said the capital improvement project received more positive backing Thursday than it has in the past, and he plans to bring more information on the project and future development to next week’s meeting so council members can better tell the constituents what they’re voting on.
If approved next week, Abramson will pursue the grant, which is a competitive statewide grant.
The council must make a decision in its April 1 meeting to meet the April 4 deadline.