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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — A business jet is towed from a hangar at North Little Rock Municipal Airport in this 2018 file photo. - Photo by John Sykes Jr.

The North Little Rock City Council approved by one vote Monday night a $4.5 million revenue bond to help fund $5.7 million in improvements to the North Little Rock Municipal Airport, including adding a Homer's restaurant adjacent to the planned new terminal.

Mayor Joe Smith cast the tie-breaking vote for the 5-4 decision. The mayor only votes if needed to reach a necessary fifth vote for approving legislation. The four men on the council voted for the proposal, with all four female members voting against it.

The $4.5 million bond is to help pay for a new terminal building, a corporate aircraft hangar and expanded parking for the airport, located at 8200 Remount Road, along with the building shell for a Homer's restaurant. Another $100,000 in airport funds is allotted in the city's budget, and $1.1 million from an unrelated sale of city property in February will be added to the project proposal, pushing its total budget to $5.7 million.

Smith said at the start of a long discussion about the proposal that he agreed with airport director Clay Rogers' assessment that the upgrade "is a game-changer" for the airport, located on the north edge of the city in Ward 4.

Smith had previously lamented the airport's lack of a modern aviation center, saying its condition hurts attracting new businesses to the city. The limited hangar space also keeps the airport from leasing space and selling fuel to corporate jets.

The airport opened in 1960.

"Public investment creates private investment," Smith said right before the vote was taken. "This is economic development."

The concept of a restaurant had been removed from initial plans for improvements, but interest in leasing airport space for a locally owned Homer's made adding a restaurant feasible, Smith said last week.

Homer's Restaurant/DC Group Inc. would invest "probably close to a half-million dollars" to build out the restaurant once the shell is completed, Smith said. Homer's is an established restaurant in Little Rock with two locations. Homer's at 2001 E. Roosevelt Road, opened in 1986 and Homer's West, 9700 Rodney Parham Road, started in 2012.

Smith will bring back contracts for the restaurant and the fixed-base operator building for the council to consider within the next month.

Ward 4 Council Member Jane Ginn, speaking against the proposal, said taxpayer funds would be better used for needs in the city that would affect more of its residents, rather than for an airport used by far fewer.

"Less than 1% of residents step foot on the North Little Rock Airport grounds, much less use it," Ginn said.

Council Member Charlie Hight, also of Ward 4, spoke in support, saying this was the first chance he's had in his 19 years on the City Council to "vote for something in Ward 4 capable of producing revenue."

"I like Homer's," he said. "I see this as a way of getting city funding for something in our ward. We've got to give them [Homer's] a chance."

Metro on 07/23/2019

Print Headline: Mayor breaks council tie to OK $4.5M bond for North Little Rock airport upgrades


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Archived Comments

  • Knuckleball1
    July 23, 2019 at 6:53 a.m.

    Charlie Hight will vote the way the Mayor wants him to vote.

  • Jfish
    July 23, 2019 at 7:39 a.m.

    Have you ever seen a Mayor vote against an expansion project?

  • greenhorn
    July 23, 2019 at 1:24 p.m.

    What a surprise. Mayor Smith votes to improve his golfing friends' and political backers' personal airplane hangers at the "out of the way" NLR Airport, located in Sherwood Arkansas. The mayor is quoted as saying not having a modern airport hurts businesses. Have we heard that slogan before? The Clinton National Airport, which is actually closer to NLR than the NLR Airport, operates a wonderful private and public airport. Technically the private is owned and operated by TAC Air. They have updated facilities, industry, and a national airport to help out. The area really doesn't need another airport. Especially NLR. Why would you want to fly into sherwood arkansas? You are likely driving to the Little Rock side to stay in a hotel (bypassing the run down Wyndam). Another 5.7 million in bonds. However, as detailed in previous projects, the mayor is horrible at staying on budget with construction costs. Dickey Stephens Park, Argenta Plaza, Police and Courts building, all over budget by MILLIONS of dollars. In the private industry he would be fired and relieved of his duties for attempting to bankrupt a company. However this is public government where you can kick the can down the road. What a waste of money. Why don't you get 4.5 million in bonds put that money in parks or taking care of the properties you know own? Disgraceful and another slap in the face to the citizens of NLR. Hope the folks in Chimney Rock enjoy their new airplane hangers and private chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.