SJBP airport control switches to Port of South Louisiana

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 5, 2009


LAPLACE — A long-awaited agreement to shift control of the St. John Parish Airport to the Port of South Louisiana received clearance for takeoff from the St. John Council at a June 23 council meeting.

The council unanimously supported the resolution, which gives the port exclusive control over the airport’s operations and management. The six-year agreement was introduced at the council’s finance committee meeting.

St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the parish would still own the land, but port officials would be responsible for financing, construction, renovations and marketing at the Reserve airport and other surrounding properties.

“The port has more resources than the parish does,” Boe said. “This will allow the airport to grow into a more productive economic development outlet for St. John Parish.”

Joel Chaisson, executive director for the Port of South Louisiana, said the port has immediate plans to expand the airport’s main runway and add a second runway in the hopes of turning the facility into a hub for cargo planes.

“If we expand the runway by about 1,000 feet it will allow more small jets and cargo carriers to use the facility,” Chaisson said. “An additional runway would allow cargo planes of any size to land and depart. This will give the port, as well as our Globalplex terminal, another outlet to transport goods. We already have water, land and rail — now we have air.”

Chaisson said the action from the council meeting, which has been a topic of discussion in the parish for a number of years, would have to be ratified by the Port Commission at their next meeting, scheduled for July 15 in LaPlace. He also said the port would have to wait for results of an environmental impact study before initiating the plans to lengthen the runway.

St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard said the management transfer will save the parish about $100,000 a year in government subsidies that the parish pays to the airport. He said the parish has had to supplement the airport’s yearly budget since the airport does not generate enough money to operate independently.

“The port has more of an opportunity to get funds for the airport on a state and federal level,” said Hubbard, who once served as president of the port commission. “It is good for the port and the parish. I’m glad we could finally make this deal happen because it will go a long way toward attracting more economic development.”