New Saline County Airport Picks LR Firm to Run it

BENTON - The Saline County Airport Commission will begin negotiations this week with Little Rock-based Airpro Inc. to serve as the fixed-base operator at the county's new airport, which opened last month near Bryant, Saline County Judge Lanny Fite said Wednesday.

The fixed-base operator will commit between $1.5 million and $2 million to build a terminal and office space at the site, and supply jet fuel to larger aircraft expected to use the airfield's 5,002-foot runway, Fite said. The airport, which can handle midsize jets, replaces a Benton airfield designed for small propeller-driven planes.

Airpro's proposal, which commission members selected at a meeting Tuesday, includes plans for a restaurant, a pilot lounge and rooms for short overnight stays, Fite said. Over the next week, commission members will negotiate with the company to firm up the details of the agreement, including the amount of capital investment, the length of a lease, the lease terms, and when construction would begin, he said.

If negotiations go well, contracts could be signed soon. If not, Fite said, the commission will begin negotiations with another company: Jerry Smith Co. of Mena.

"Once we come to an agreement, within a few weeks, they will have a staff out there with temporary facilities," Fite said.

The new $15 million Saline County Regional Airport opened March 12. It occupies a reclaimed bauxite pit off Arkansas 183 that was donated to the county by the Aluminum Company of America.

This article was published 04/19/2007

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