- Associated Press - Thursday, December 31, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Jackson officials are vowing to fight any attempt by the state to take away control of the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (https://on.thec-l.com/1OmvOsY) a bill will be filed in the 2016 Legislature, which begins Tuesday, to give control of the airport to the state and have a tri-county authority oversee. Two members of the authority each would be appointed from Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties along with one at-large member. The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority now oversees operation of the airport.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilman Kenneth Stokes brought up the item as an agenda discussion.

Mayor Tony Yarber confirmed that there is discussion about taking authority for the airport from Jackson.

“It is a very real discussion about the state taking control of the airport,” Yarber said.

Yarber said that prior to any discussion about legislation he sat in two discussions about the state taking control of the airport. Yarber said the discussions originated with the executive branch of state government.

“I told them that isn’t going to fly with this body,” Yarber told council members of the meeting with state officials about the airport.

Yarber said that the chairwoman of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority told him last week of the proposed legislation. State Sen. Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, confirmed that he has pre-filed legislation.

Harkins said his bill seeks to create a new airport authority to govern the airport. He said the governor would appoint the seven members of the board. Harkins said the airport is in Rankin County and there should be a regional governing body.

“It’s a regional airport, and it should be governed as such,” Harkins said. “It’s a regional asset and a major economic driver. Times have changed, and the landscape is different than it was in the 1960s when the Legislature authorized the original airport authority. There wasn’t even a bridge over the Pearl River on Lakeland Drive at that time.”

The Jackson airport was located at Hawkins Field in northwest Jackson from roughly the 1930s to the 1960s. With the introduction of jet service to Jackson in 1963, the city began work to annex land in Rankin County to build a new commercial and military service airport, according to information on the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority website.


Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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