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Mayor: Airport is ‘off the radar’ with broken equipment

A revisit to the drawing board aims to put the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Airport back on pilots’ radar.

The airport’s Automated Weather Observing System, which provides real-time weather information like barometric pressure, wind speed, visibility and precipitation, has been kaput for months.

“It’s very important for pilots to safely land to know the weather conditions on the ground,” engineering consultant Ryan Holmes with Dungan Engineering told aldermen at a special-called meeting Thursday afternoon.

But the cost to replace the 14-year-old computer equipment soared a lot higher than Brookhaven aldermen were expecting.

Lewis Electric Inc. quoted $260,600, and while Webster Electric’s quote came in at a lower $205,025, it was still way more than what the city was hoping to pay.

“We were expecting them to come in a good bit less than that,” Holmes said. “Maybe $150,000, $170,000 at most.”

Only two companies in the nation sell the AWOS equipment and both are owned by the same parent company, he said. Holmes went back to the drawing board and decided on a different approach.

“Without that AWOS system we’re off the radar. We’re off the map so far as somebody flying through,” Mayor Joe Cox said. “When they pull it up on their instruments, we don’t register, so we’re missing out on fuel sales and what-have-you.”

Administrators at University of Mississippi Medical Center have written about their concern over the dead AWOS system in Brookhaven and its potential to help save lives.

“They use our airport along with Grenada’s — Grenada’s (AWOS) is out as well — they use our airports because they’re in their flight patterns for their rescues coming south so they can fly their helicopter,” Holmes said.

“We’ve kind of changed gears a little bit and going to try to rehab this equipment,” Cox said.

The system can be refurbished to FAA standards for just over $40,000, he said. The move should buy the city a few more years of use before the entire system will need to be replaced.

Aldermen voted 6-0 to accept Remote Systems Integrated’s bid of $41,081 to refurbish the AWOS system. Ward 2 Alderman Shannon Moore was absent from the 1:30 p.m. meeting.

The system should be up and running in four to six weeks, Holmes said.

The Brookhaven-Lincoln County Airport, located off Old Highway 51, has one 5,000-foot asphalt runway. It is the only public air terminal in Lincoln County. Holmes said approximately 1,100 total operations are filed annually at the airport.