Farmland agreement on airport property a growing concern

Farmland agreement on airport property a growing concern

Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 9:02 pm
By: Kevin Bowden, Staff Reporter

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Progress is being made on several projects at Everett-Stewart Regional Airport, but the airport board’s farmland lease agreement continues to be a hot topic with Dr. Chris Gooch in the middle of the controversial issue.
Gooch is chairman of the airport board, which met early today at the airport complex. He briefly updated airport board members on recent developments dealing with the airport’s partnership agreement.
Earlier this week, he addressed the Obion County Commission on the agreement and how it deals with the leasing of farmland at the airport.
The commission postponed action on a contract for the lease of farmland at the airport.
Gooch told the airport board he is on the agenda for the June 6 Obion County Budget Committee meeting and will return to the commission in mid-June.
At the heart of the issue is the airport’s farmland, which is leased to local farmers through an agreement with the airport board. A runway extension project at the airport has taken up some of that farmland and that has created some problems.
The local airport is actually owned by Obion County, but is jointly managed by Weakley and Obion counties. The airport board currently leases about 670 acres of farmland.
Apparently there is some concern among Weakley County officials about their lack of input into the farmland lease agreement.
The issue will resurface next month with the county commission getting involved.
The Union City Rotary Club will be getting an update on airport projects Friday, when airport manager Jo Ann Speer is scheduled as the club’s guest speaker.
Aside from the controversy over the farm lease issue, this morning’s nearly hour-long airport board meeting was dominated by progress reports.
Work is continuing on a design for a new entrance monument for the airport and the airport’s runway extension project is nearing completion. Work on the runway extension will resume Monday, according to Mrs. Speer, who announced a runway dedication ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. June 29.
She is in the process of inviting aeronautics officials to the ceremony and told the board that former Congressman John Tanner has agreed to participate in the ceremony.
Gooch also updated the board on the airport’s marketing plan. A preliminary draft of the marketing plan has been completed by Airport Business Solutions and the chairman said he is working on making some changes to the rough draft.
Mrs. Speer advised the board that a new compass rose has been painted on the runway by the 2011 Adult Leadership Obion County class, of which she was a member. (See related photo, Page 1.)
“I’m so glad we’ve got that done,” she said. “I think it’s a huge addition to the airport.”
With all the projects the airport is involved in, the need for new hangars was brought up during today’s meeting. Board members were encouraged to come up with suggestions for airport projects that could be submitted for state funding this coming fiscal year.
“We need hangars,” Mrs. Speer said as she informed the airport board of Vision 100 funding that is available for airport projects. That funding provides 90 percent of the money for airport projects, with the rest of the funding coming from local sources.
“At this point we have $45,000,” Mrs. Speer said.
An additional $150,000 will be available in the upcoming fiscal year, it was announced at the meeting.
“We need to try to get some hangars built,” Mrs. Speer stressed to the board.
Gooch was in agreement, saying new hangars should be the airport’s top priority once the runway extension is completed.
In other action, the airport board:
• Approved contracts with West Tennessee Aviation, Lester Flying Service and Cutting Edge Bindery. All three businesses operate at the airport.
• Rejected bids submitted to buy the airport’s fuel truck and other scrap material and authorized the board’s maintenance committee to seek other options to sell the old truck and surplus equipment.
Published in The Messenger 5.19.11

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