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Agreement reached in airport negotiations

Agreement reached in airport negotiations

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 7:23 pm

By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter At long last, a meeting of the minds. About noon Monday came some good news. An agreement has been reached in efforts to acquire 65 acres of farmland needed to extend the runway at Everett-Stewart Regional Airport by 1,500 feet. The present runway is 5,000 feet long. Parties in the agreement are Union City businessman Bill Latimer Jr. and the Everett-Stewart Regional Airport Com-mission. Latimer and other family members own a 425-acre tract of land adjacent to the south end of the airport runway. The airport commission sought to acquire 65 acres of the 425-acre tract to extend the airport runway. News that an agreement had been reached was revealed by Jackson attorney Charles Barnett, who represents Latimer and other members of the Latimer family. Monday, Barnett notified the airport commission by formal letter that its latest offer, as contained in a Dec. 19 letter, is acceptable to the Latimers. Basic terms set forth in the offer are: • A cash price of $537,700 • Gail Latimer gets the farm income from the property for the rest of her life. Bill Latimer, when contacted by The Messenger, declined to comment. However, others associated with the two-year process of offer and counter-offer expressed their pleasure. “I am excited. This is the best thing that could happen to Obion County,” said airport manager Jo Ann Speer. “We’ve been working on this over two years. The first appraisal (of the Latimer property) was done in February 2007. Another one was done in February 2008.” Mrs. Speer said she is preparing facts and figures about the issue to present to the Obion County Budget Committee at its meeting Monday morning. “This is going to be a huge boost for both counties (Obion and Weakley) that jointly operate the airport,” she said. Two capital improvement projects totaling $8.4 million — the runway extension and a new road between the airport and Highway 22 bypass — have been approved but could not be built until the Latimer acreage was acquired. Ms. Speer said the state will assist the airport commission in defraying most of the cash price of the 65 acres. “The state will give us a grant for $385,000 for land acquisition,” she said. “That will leave a balance of $152,075 to be divided by the two counties. That’s the amount of local money we’ll need. We’ve got all the preliminary work done for the runway project — the grant is in place and we’ve requested contracts. We’re waiting to finalize everything and move forward. It’s been a long process of negotiation. But we’re happy. It’s a landmark day for Obion and Weakley counties.” Dr. Chris Gooch, chairman of Everett-Stewart Regional Airport commission, breathed a sigh of relief as he shared his thoughts Monday. “I’m tired,” he said. “We’ve been working on this a long time. Now there’s an agreement, and we’ll see what we can do about coming up with the necessary funds over and above what the state gives us. “This is an important development for local economic development. By extending our runway 1,500 feet, our airport will be able to accept large corporate jets such as those used by Tyson Foods and Goodyear.” Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire said those involved in the negotiations are to be commended. “We appreciate the hard work on both sides,” he said. “It’s up to the county commission of both counties to allocate the additional funds needed to buy the land. But it looks like we can get it done and get these construction projects going. It will enhance economic prosperity for this area. “I’m very happy about it.” Wayne McCreight of Martin, one of three Weakley Countians on the airport commission, said he’s happy an agreement has been reached. “It’ll be up to the two county (commissions) to approve the funding we’ll need,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to getting it done. This gives us a great opportunity to continue to move our two counties forward. “It’s a good thing, a very good thing.” Published in The Messenger 12.30.08

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