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XNA board votes to de-annex from City of Highfill after 'multiple proposals'

"Unfortunately, Highfill officials were unwilling to agree to anything of mutual benefit,” XNA CEO Aaron Burkes said.

HIGHFILL, Ark. — The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) board voted unanimously to detach from the City of Highfill on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

According to a press release from XNA, the board approved a resolution to detach all of the property it owns located in Highfill. The decision comes after "multiple attempts to negotiate an interlocal agreement had failed."

XNA CEO Aaron Burkes said, “We were hopeful that we could reach an agreement with Highfill to provide things like road and infrastructure maintenance and other similar municipal services, or otherwise a sharing of sales tax revenue that could fund those services. Unfortunately, Highfill officials were unwilling to agree to anything of mutual benefit.” 

Nearly a year ago, the airport was looking into the pros and cons of detaching from Highfill.

XNA said within the multiple proposals was a partial detachment of XNA’s property, a division of XNA’s sales tax revenue to go toward the City of Highfill, and assistance with road and infrastructure maintenance to the city.  "Every mutually beneficial proposal was rejected by Highfill officials," XNA said. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, XNA Board Chair Jim Krall said, “Even though it's been a challenging process, this is best for the Airport, Northwest Arkansas, and the people of Northwest Arkansas.” 

Earlier this year, Act 769 was passed by Arkansas lawmakers, allowing regional airports to detach from the municipalities. As it stands, with 2% of transactions at XNA going to Highfill as a city sales tax, the airport claims it "receives no benefit from these tax dollars because it receives no municipal services from Highfill such as road maintenance, construction, utility infrastructure, police/fire, etc."

5NEWS spoke with Highfill Mayor Chris Holland, who said he told the XNA board that Highfill would work to keep the airport, but that XNA wanted to leave. Even with the de-annexation, Holland said the city will be fine. However, he said that Highfill is not allowing XNA to leave the water district.

Airport and city officials say the detachment will take several months. XNA says the process involves surveying the land and filing a petition with the Benton County Quorum Court.

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