HAMMOND — The City Council will hold a public hearing on whether to borrow up to $350,000 from the city’s sales tax fund to complete a control tower at the Hammond Northshore Regional Airport.
Mayor Mayson Foster told the council Tuesday that the money could be paid back by the end of the fiscal year. He said the city owns a 17-acre tract that was once part of the airport and has an appraised value of $340,000, and it could be sold to cover the loan.
That land was part of the original airport built by the federal government during World War II.
After the war, the airport was given to the city. Foster said the city has the FAA’s permission to sell the land but the stipulation is all proceeds from the sale must be reinvested in the airport.
The city has been seeking funds for the control tower for the past several months.
Airport Director Jason Ball said the airport already has been awarded an $800,000 federal grant and a $750,000 state grant for construction of the tower. However, Ball explained, the latest bid on tower construction was $1.7 million. With the $350,000 contribution from the city, the tower’s costs could be covered, he said.
Once the tower is built, it will be manned by personnel from the Louisiana Army National Guard, which has its air operations headquarters at the Hammond airport. The National Guard flies a fleet of helicopters and aircraft from the airport.
Also at the facility is a U.S. Customs Service unit that counts about six aircraft in its fleet.
In a related matter, the council unanimously approved two resolutions that authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement for improvements to the airport.
The state Department of Transportation and Development will pay $35,000 for an emergency generator to be used at the airport and $15,000 for a beacon that will be part of the tower.
The Hammond Northshore Regional Airport has seen steady growth over the past several years, Ball said, and the need for a tower is growing ever more important.
At this time there are no control towers in the Florida Parishes area.
SHUTDOWN NOT A PROBLEM — Director of Planning and Grants Lacy Landrum told the council that the city should not experience any negative fallout from the federal government shutdown. Landrum said all grants awarded the city still will be delivered.
STREET TO HONOR LEADER — The council unanimously approved renaming Alabama Street to George Perkins Drive to honor the late community and civil rights leader. Perkins was instrumental in the founding of Hammond’s Black Heritage Museum and was a member of numerous community organizations.