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Big money being sought by Tupelo airport

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Updated: 10/01/2013 4:10 pm
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- One month after requesting and receiving money from the city of Tupelo for taxiway repairs, the Tupelo Regional Airport Authority Board makes another request, this time for $1.2 million.

In a specially called meeting of the Tupelo City Council Monday, airport executive director Joshua Abramson stated their case: the money, paid from the city in increments of approximately $140,000 over 10 years, would go toward capital improvements for the airport.

"Everybody wants to make the best use to the taxpayers' money. We don't want to waste anymore than we ever have to," Abramson said.

The vast majority of that would go toward a taxiway used primarily by the airport's largest tenant: Universal Asset Management.

City council members had already approved shelling out more than $100,000 to fix the section in August, which has begun to crumble under the weight of large-body aircraft that passes from the airport runway to UAM's facility.

UAM said earlier this year the taxiway repair was essential to keeping its business in Tupelo, and with it, some 85 jobs.

This change had some council members question what changed over the course of the last month, and whether UAM felt the money already provided by the council was inadequate.

"If they would approve a $1.2 million fix, it would incorporate that and it wouldn't be necessary to replace that area. So you wouldn't have to spend the money if the full long-term fix was applied," Abramson said.

Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell says he feels the airport applied a fix Monday to the council, since they're being approached for even more money once again.

"It's a power play on both sides, probably. It's going to cost us a lot of money if they leave, but it's also going to cost them a lot of money if they leave," Newell said.

Figures from the Tupelo Airport Authority Board indicate UAM will have a $29 million impact over the next three years for the city, worthy of an investment to some on the council.

However, Newell says the company has basically said no to negotiations or compromise, and that sets a dangerous precedent in his view.

"It is apparent from this council that this council is going to want some cost-sharing and to reevaluate their lease agreement, or this council may take the position that if you're not willing to look at that, then you're welcome to leave," Newell said.

WTVA News contacted UAM's management team for a response Monday evening, but it has not yet responded to these recent developments.

The Tupelo City Council agreed during the meeting to make a decision later this week on whether to approve the request.


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