Grant to aid Tupelo runway project

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The check is on the way.
But more checks – or one very big one – are still needed.
The Tupelo Regional Airport is getting a $544,079 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to help with the airport’s runway extension.
The project, which will add 650 feet to the north end of the runway, will cost at least $8.15 million, based on a study done by engineering firm Neel-Schaffer last year.
The grant will help pay for a wildlife hazard assessment study and the design of the extension.
The design phase is under way.
Airport Executive Director Josh Abramson said he hopes to begin the bidding phase in August or September. If all goes well, construction could begin in late fall or early winter.
However, financing must be secured first, and nothing is assured.
An FAA funding authorization bill has lagged in Congress for nearly four years. Funding for the agency – which helps pay for airport projects across the country – has been extended 20 times without a long-term solution. The latest extension expires July 22.
Runway ‘top priority’
Without that federal funding, Abramson said the airport will have to go to the state to finance the extension project.
“My top priority is the runway extension, second, it’s work on the apron and third, it’s repairing some security fencing,” he said. “If the FAA isn’t reauthorized, there will be a lot less money to go around.”
Should federal money fall through, state money that would have been used for the apron would instead go toward the runway extension project. The apron work alone will cost about $900,000.
The work is needed to accommodate Universal Asset Management, a jet recycling company based in Memphis. UAM is moving its Arkansas operations to Tupelo. The company, which also leases aircraft, disassembles wide-bodied and narrow-bodied aircraft and sells components and parts.
In a 20-year lease with the airport, UAM will pay $85,000 in each of the first two years of the agreement. In the third year, it pays $105,000. From years four to 20, it will pay $110,000 yearly, with a 1.25 percent increase each year, starting the fifth year.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.