TUPELO – Approving a $500,000 grant usually sounds like a no-brainer, especially after the City Council approved matching tax dollars more than three months ago.
But not this time, not for a Tupelo Regional Airport project to create a long-desired taxiway near a crumbling runway.
While council members may support the state Department of Transportation funds for the project, they want a week longer, leveraging grant approval to encourage the Tupelo Regional Airport Authority to reconsider an existing policy.
The council wants the airport authority to charge fees to private tenants with equipment and property outside of leased space, especially hulking aircraft shells in view of traffic driving just outside of the airport property.
Universal Asset Management has complained of deteriorating infrastructure limiting the company’s ability to bring planes to leased space. The airport authority has requested for months the city to pay more than $1 million for a similar taxiway capital project, an idea met with a cold shoulder from the council.
Council members told TRA Executive Director Josh Abramson on Monday companies leaving materials, such as large aircraft hulls, in shared areas should receive more than standard lease agreement costs.
Abramson told city elected officials the TRA authority has power to levy fees and fines but waives them for companies like UAM.
With an grant acceptance deadline of Aug. 1, the council plans to hold a work session Tuesday with airport authority members to likely encourage assessing fees or fines for the large, retired planes.
“The council is wanting to understand those fees and rates,” said Council President Mike Bryan, who voted against providing city funds for the project in June.
Council members will hold a special meeting immediately following the work session, likely to approve the grant.
Abramson said postponing approval of the grant for a week will still provide enough time to deliver required documentation to MDOT.
“I’ve got the grant ready to be signed,” he said.