City makes airport progress on D.C. trip

By Joe Lamb
LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER
There’s “still work to do,” but Conway officials say they made progress in last week’s trip to Washington, D.C., to
coordinate federal funding for the new Cantrell Field airport.
“It would be nice to leave a trip like that and say, ‘our work’s done, we’ve got everything we want,’ but that’s
not the nature of productive public relationships,”
Conway Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Jamie Gates said on Monday. “It was a productive trip, but
we’ve still got work to do.”
Gates and Mayor Tab Townsell went to D.C. to meet with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials and the
“congressional delegation” helping with the airport project, Rep. Tim Griffin and Sens. John Boozman and
Mark Pryor.
Gates said that it became evident during the trip that the FAA’s D.C. headquarters had questions about the airport plans being submitted by FAA the Southwest Regional Office in Fort Worth, Texas, which the city has primarily worked with.

“So you have ‘big FAA’ and then you have your regional offices,” Gates said. “The plan has been to come up
with airport plans at the regional level, which the local level will have more contacts with naturally, and then
march that up the line. … We’re still waiting on the final signoff and agreement from the people above Fort
Worth, and I guess it comes down to the fact that Fort Worth can’t unilaterally make the decisions.
“Without splitting hairs,” Gates said, “there was a difference in the degree of resolution” between the
regional and national FAA offices.

The “difference in resolution” shouldn’t delay the airport opening, Gates said, but it was “another level of
review that obviously you prefer to physically be present for to present information in person and in context.”
Townsell said that, “we’ve basically kicked it up to the political folks and said, ‘to the degree that this is a
political issue, it’s time to step in.’”

The airport is a $25 million project set to open in September. It is being built using 90 percent federal money.
The remainder is split between state money and local money generated by the sale of the current airport
property. As a condition of FAA funding, money from the sale of the current airport land must be invested into the airport.
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