Three weeks ago, Wright gave a presentation to the airport authority as well as the City Council, explaining what the company does and what it would like to do.
"The presentation was meant to show that this is a very technical and global business, and that we create a lot of awareness for the city," she said.
There was no demand by Wright or any other UAM official to make the repairs. But the presentation clearly was meant to send a message that the company was doing what it promised it would do, with expectations that the city and airport would do the same.
The presentation also included a long-term plan that showed anywhere from $6 million to $8 million in future development and investment at the airport, depending on the growth of UAM's business.
Wright said the multimillion-dollar figures were the original projected costs of using concrete on all of UAM's lease area, based on expected grants and federal funding.
"But I also made it clear that we've tossed out that plan because it's no longer valid," Wright said. "We know that funding is no longer there. ... it's the new reality."
Wright said she presented UAM's plan to revamp its operations to deal with that new reality, including alternative materials to use other than concrete on its lease-hold areas. Those solutions are far less expensive, she said.
But the immediate need is the $1.2 million repair request.
Abramson last week asked for the repair of a 50-foot-wide section of the old runway used by UAM. Concrete, up to 15 inches thick, would be laid for the project.
The airport would borrow the money from the Mississippi Development Authority through a low-interest loan program. The city would repay the loan over 10 years, paying $140,000 annually.
But city leaders have balked at the idea, hesitant to loan money to an airport straining to pay for what it has now.
"We can't pay for it ourselves," Abramson said. "That's why we're asking the city to help."
The airport already is saddled with a $125,000 annual debt now brought on by an ill-advised purchase of the airport's formerly private fixed-base operators and the move of the Army Aviation Support Facility several years ago.
Shelton has promised no new taxes, but the money would have to either come from the city's contingency fund or a tax increase. The new mayor and City Council aren't amenable to either.
Airport authority members insist it was them, not UAM, that made the $1.2 million request. Granted, the move was made to ensure UAM sticks around.
"This was presented on behalf of the Tupelo Airport Authority," Abramson said of the repair proposal. The project would include the taxiway work that had to be stopped as officials hash out their differences.
The airport authority is staunchly defending a project it, the Community Development Foundation and the city touted three years ago.
"If a tenant in one of our industrial parks got their trucks stuck in the road in the industrial park, would we make them pay to repave it?" one member said. "I don't believe so. It's a similar situation here."
UAM said it was recruited to the airport with everyone's understanding that runway and taxiway repairs had to be made.
"This is a 20-year lease we've signed," Wright said. "We haven't missed a payment and we've continued to make them. We've done everything we've said we would do."
She also said the company has spent an additional $500,000 on concrete within its lease-hold area, "something we weren't asked to do, but did on our own. ... we've gone above and beyond what our lease calls for."
Wright also said UAM has spent additional money to help moving the large planes it lands at the airport.
And more are on the way.
UAM plans to bring in some three dozen planes over the next few months, including six Airbus A340s, which are roughly the size of 747s.
Even before UAM arrived in Tupelo, critics said the company would turn the airport into a junkyard.
Keri Wright was named president and CEO on Monday after the company announced she had acquired Universal Asset Management, a Memphis-based company.
-- Nov. 08--TUPELO -- A public hearing will be held Tuesday at the Tupelo Regional Airport to address the environmental impact of plans to extend the runway 650 feet to the north...
In recent months, people who live in northeastern Hollywood neighborhoods have had to deal with an increase in air traffic from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
-- Jan. 05--Commercial pilot Randy Baumann likes what he sees when he lands on the freshly-repaired Runway 4/22 at Davis Field Airport. "On the approach you can see the...