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UAM, city council remain at odds over taxiway repair

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Updated: 10/29/2013 12:09 am
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- It's been nearly a month since members of the Tupelo City Council asked Universal Asset Management for a compromise on airport taxiway repair work that could cost the city $1.2 million.

However, company CEO Keri Wright said she never got the memo.

"I have not received any communication since Sept. 30," Wright said. "The mayor has my cell phone number."

That lack of communication could potentially threaten the company's 86-person workforce.

"From my perspective, my goal is to run a business and keep people employed. That's what we're focusing our efforts on right now," Wright said.

A damaged taxiway connects UAM's leasehold area to the airport.

Wright said UAM depends on that taxiway to transport jumbo jets from the airport to its airplane recycling operation.

"Whatever it is [the city council] plans to do, UAM is going to continue long into the future and we will find ways to work through it, whether it be at Tupelo or elsewhere," Wright said.

Now, Tupelo airport officials say they need $1.2 million to fix it when Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton says one-tenth of that cost is actually needed to make minimum repairs to satisfy UAM's lease agreement.

"We are committed to providing access but we're not committed to providing a wish list for a private entity with taxpayer dollars," Shelton said.

Since that September meeting, a war of words has begun between the two entities.

"The city of Tupelo cannot be held hostage by a 'do this or I quit' form of negotiation," Shelton said.

"For the city to say we're not coming to the table, it's politics, political positioning," Wright said.

For her, it's a fundamental difference of opinion.

"We've gone out of our way and committed to financially invest in that airport and invest in our leasehold space," Wright added. "If you have a grocery store within a town, is the grocery store responsible for building the road up to it and maintaining that road?"

Ward 5 Councilman Buddy Palmer says UAM's situation can be described a bit differently.

"You lease this house, I come in and tear it up, and it's my responsibility to fix it?" Palmer asked.

Palmer's not the only councilman who feels that way.

"If we can't agree to some sort of equity sharing, then maybe we do need to part ways," Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell said.

Wright said the lease agreement requires the Tupelo Regional Airport to provide them access to their facility from the runway, meaning the taxiway must be repaired to do so.

No timeline has been established for when the city and UAM might reach an agreement.


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