Runway work could start by spring

By DENNIS SEID / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Assuming the Federal Aviation Administration gives its OK, the next step for the Tupelo Regional Airport to extend its runway is to begin the design phase of the project, pursue funding and begin the bid process for the work.
And in a best-case scenario, work could begin on the 650-foot extension to the north end of the runway in the spring.
But first, airport and FAA officials will accept comments about the project through Nov. 19. Afterward, the FAA will weigh the comments before making its decision.
About 40 people attended a public hearing Tuesday at the airport to review the project and ask questions.
Charles Goforth of engineering and architectural firm Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon said no significant environmental impact was found in its study of the project plans.
“We are not the design firm,” Goforth emphasized. “We just looked at the proposal and did our evaluation. We took a look at all the environmental factors. We’re not here to make a recommendation or anything.”
If the FAA approves the project – airport officials seemed confident that there would be a coveted “Finding of No Significant Impact,” or FONSI – then the airport authority can pursue funding for the $8-million-plus project.
Among the attendees at the meeting were Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and most of the City Council.
Ward 5′s Jonny Davis said there were too many questions left unanswered. He said the details about the previous 1,000-foot runway extension project were never clear enough, and he feels the same about the current project.
“My biggest concern isn’t the 650-foot extension – it’s what is going on with the other 350 feet on the south end,” he said. “Will we have to move a fire station and a bank? But that wasn’t part of this discussion. Without that 350 feet, I’d like to know if it’s worth the trouble to go 650 feet – is it viable on it’s own? I think there are some questions that still need answering.”
But Council President Fred Pitts said the extension was necessary to prepare for the city’s growth.
“I wish we had a crystal ball and see 10-15 years down the road,” he said. “But Tupelo has always been on the edge of doing things before we needed it. Now look a what’s happening with Toyota. If we grow in size like the other communities have where Toyota has been, we’re going to need more runway. …We’re talking 2.5 cents on the dollar that it will cost the citizens of Tupelo. The rest is funded through airport operations and fees paid across the country. If we don’t go after it, somebody else will.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.