October 16, 2013 Edition

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Walnut Ridge Airport to
continue ramp work

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge Regional Airport commissioners voted to continue work on the airport's ramp and to delay replacing faulty lighting on runway 18-36 at their regular meeting on Oct. 7. They agreed to return their current Five- Year Capital Improvement Plan to the plan they had originally approved, which did not include lighting repairs.

Chairman Dan Coker told the commissioners that he and Airport Manager Michelle Anthony had traveled to Little Rock recently and met with John Knight of the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics, two engineers and the airport's engineer, Stacey Morris, to discuss the safety issues of the ramp and the faulty lights at the airport.

"We wanted their input to help us decide which project we should be pursuing here at this time," Coker said.

"We feel that the best project for us at this time is to complete work on the ramp. It's the larger safety issue right now," he said. "Instead of beginning a project in 2014, we can bank the $150,000 we receive each year from the Federal Aviation Administration for airport improvements."

"In order to repair the lighting, we would need a grant from the state for $362,760," Coker said. "We would have to pay the full amount up front and would receive 80 percent of that back when the project was completed. Our portion of the cost would be $60,000, which would require a bank loan."

It was decided the lighting project would be put off until the apron work is completed and more AIP money has been banked to use for the lighting.

Airport Manager Michelle Anthony told the commissioners that reflectors on the taxiway instead of lights is FFA approved and could be a temporary solution.

She asked for permission to hire Smith Electric for two days at $60 an hour to unhook the taxiway lights on 18-36 to see if that is where the problem with the lights is coming from.

"Our lighting is like Christmas lights in that they are all connected and one bad strand may be causing the problem," she said. "We want to isolate the runway lights from the taxiway lights because we think that may be the answer." She added that airport personnel would assist in the work, cutting down on the airport's cost.

Her request was approved.

Commissioner Coker informed commissioners that the airport has passed two recent inspections with good results.

"We recently had a military inspection which garnered us a good report, much more favorable than the last one, and we also received a good report from the Eastern Aviation Shell fuel contractor's inspection," he said.

The commission voted in favor of renting space in the old Morgan hangar to Gerald Walker for $200 a month on a month-to-month basis. Walker will be working with students who want to complete an A&P internship working on planes after completing their studies at Black River Technical College.

Anthony and Commissioner Billie Gail Dunlap recently attended the Arkansas Airport Operators Association meeting in Eureka Springs.

"I would like to compliment our airport manager," Dunlap said. "Everyone at the meeting had good things to say about her and the work she does. We're very lucky to have her, and she is doing a good job."

In other business, the commission was informed that:

  • the Municipal League will hold a meeting to discuss insurance for airport employees on Nov. 7.

  • a group of wounded soldiers were here following a donated hunting trip, and were headed back to Iraq.

  • the warranty work on the ramp has been completed, with cracks and other problems being resealed and corrected.

  • Grady Auction was to auction off items no longer needed by the airport on Oct. 11.

  • the taxiway stripe will be moved back between 40 and 60 feet and may cost several thousand dollars.

  • the Customer Service Committee is doing a good job, according to Coker. The airport now has a hot dog machine for pilots and guests to enjoy, along with its popcorn and ice cream machines.

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