Aviation panel approves proposed 2014 budget


The Pine Bluff Aviation Commission is requesting $143,566 in city funds to help in the municipal airport’s proposed 2014 budget of $520,350.

The commission’s request is to be delivered Friday to city Finance Manager Steve Miller and reflects a 2 percent expenditure reduction as imposed earlier this year by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth.

The mayor’s directive followed declining sales tax revenue over the past several years. The commission’s requested city funding is up $6,000 from last year’s request of $137,566. Airport Manager Doug Hale said the additional money is needed to offset a 20-percent increase in employee insurance premiums.

The current year’s approved budget was $504,014 — $16,336 less than 2014’s proposed figure. Total revenue for the coming year was projected at $359,850, up by $7,866 over 2013’s endorsed amount.

Hale, who noted that salaries for the airport’s five full-time employees and lone part-time worker will not change, said the city’s granting of the proposed funding plan would allow the airport “to go into the new year with a balanced budget.”

In other business, Hale told commissioners that work is scheduled to commence Monday on a $326,625 apron enhancement project. The work is being financed through a Federal Aviation Administration grant, made possible when the city council recently appropriated $32,666 as a 10-percent match that will be reimbursed by the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics.

The project — the first of two segments in a two-year infrastructure improvements effort — is slated for completion by Nov. 22.

Commissioners unanimously authorized Hale to sign a work order initiating what is hoped to be a phased access road construction around the airport. The first phase will focus on a roadway between two primary hangars.

The city is providing up to $10,000 in the 90/10 matching ADA grant offer with ADA supplying the remainder of an amount not to exceed $99,102.75.

Hale said previously that the current roadway is in such disrepair it might be considered hazardous, especially with it often being utilized by fuel trucks. Hale describes the present thoroughfare as a mixture of dirt, gravel, rocks, chunks of asphalt and other material. The roadway hasn’t been updated since World War II, when the future airport grounds were utilized by the Pine Bluff School of Aviation in providing Army Air Corps pilot training.

“We should have a quality emergency access road,” Hale told a council committee while in pursuit of the city funding. “We’ve presently got a passageway in some spots that isn’t wide enough for a firetruck, let alone two-lane automobile traffic. That’s not good enough if we expect the airport to continue growing and helping to produce more revenue for the city and county.”