Madison County Supervisor Paul Griffin supports the JMAA's control of the Jackson Airport, but believes that with the steady growth of his county, soon Madison might need its own airport.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
JACKSON A new report from the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority reveals a years-long discussion about a Madison County commercial airport, as a bill focusing on the "takeover" of the Jackson Municipal Airport remains in House committee as of this morning.
Senate Bill 2162 passed that side of the Legislature and moved over into the Republican-majority House of Representatives, where it was double-referred to two separate committees—Judiciary A and Ports, Harbors and Airports, or Ports for short. It passed Judiciary earlier this week, and now sits under the discretion and discussion of Ports under the guidance of the chairman, Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg.
Monsour said during this morning's meeting that he hated to disappoint the small crowd of people who had gathered in the small room in the capitol at 8:30 a.m., but that the committee would only be handing out subcommittee assignments. The meeting was over so quickly that the coffee was still brewing in the corner when the room emptied.
In the hallway, Monsour said the committee would review and discuss the airport bill over the rest of the week and that the deadline for passing the bill would be next Tuesday, March 22.
Meantime, the JMAA provided its "Strategic Report 2021" plan to the Jackson Free Press Wednesday. It outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the facility, its employees, as well as its management structure as a way to outline exactly which steps the administration should take in the next several years.
A small but interesting sentence stands out in the section that discusses the airport's peculiar geographical situation. The report states that there are "several nearby general aviation airports and two commercial airports within a three-hour drive" and that development of these institutions could be a threat to the Jackson airport's future. Then it drops a piece of intriguing information.
"Discussions supporting a new commercial air carrier airport in Madison County presents a threat to the Authority," the report states.
Jean Frazier, media representative for the JMAA, stated through email that she was not sure of the comment's source.
Calls to the Madison mayor, the Madison County Economic Development Authority and the Madison County administrator drew no response. Federal Aviation Administration representative Rans Black said he was familiar with the issue, but insisted that one of the press representatives from the FAA regional offices address the question.
"The FAA has not received a site plan or any other documents for review for a new airport in Madison County, MS," FAA public affairs representative Arlene Salac wrote in an in an email last week. "The agency attended a briefing in May 2015 and discussed requirements to establish a new airport that could be included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). Please contact Madison County for details about their plans."
Paul Griffin, the Madison County supervisor for District 5 and a resident of Camden, explained what he described as a years-long struggle to build an airport in his district before the rapidly expanding county ran out of room for such development.
"I wasn't really into the details of what all really went on," Griffin said of the May 2015 meetings concerning a new Madison County airport. "But I supported the airport and still do. But with the majority of the Board of Supervisors changing, it is probably going to die, for a lack of interest and a lack of funds."
Republican lawmakers from outside the capital city announced in January a plan to take control of the Jackson airport.
He indicated that the Madison County Economic Development Authority took the lead on the Madison County airport project in the beginning.
"That was the entity that was pushing it," Griffin said. "They took it so far, and then they turned it over to the Board of Supervisors. Once it got turned over to the Board of Supervisors, politics got so deep into it. And it happened to be election time also, and the majority of the board changed. So it is kind of dead in the water."
Griffin mentioned that three of the five locations proposed for the Madison County airport were all in his district. "That's where I think is the only place you could put a big, nice airport, is in my area because it has the most perfect property," he said.
The supervisor said that he has been pushing for this airport the entire time he has been on the board, and that it has been discussed three times during his tenure. He said that all attempts have failed because of political reasons.
"I think the county and the growth of the metro area is going to demand it. It might be another three years, but I don't think so. I think it's going to push it to where we have to have another one," Griffin said.
Griffin's push for a Madison airport does not mean he is against the current JMAA, though. "I don't have a problem with the Jackson airport," Griffin said. "No problem at all. And I think the governor and the state legislature should leave it alone, and let Jackson run it."
Email city reporter Tim Summers, Jr. at email@example.com See full coverage of the Jackson airport controversy at jfp.ms/airport and more local news at jfp.ms/localnews.