Councillors openly consider severing airport relationship
CORNWALL, Ontario – City councillors are wading into a debate that could see the corporation sever its relationship with the Cornwall Regional Airport.
There is a growing sentiment among some city councillors that the airport is creating too much of a drain on municipal coffers with little in the way of a return on an investment that is measured in millions of dollars.
Councillors met for a special meeting Monday night where many councillors openly discussed ending a relationship with South Glengarry that stretches back to 1984 to operate the airport.
“The ideas are really great – but the problem we’ve been facing is the actual results,” said Coun. Denis Thibault. “We’ve ended up in a situation where we have some interesting plans that look really good when presented but there’s never any results that comes out of it – I don’t see anywhere where there has been a return on the investment.”
Finance manager Maureen Adams said the city has spent $1.8 million on the airport since 2004, and Thibault figures the number balloons to $2.8 million dating back to 1984 when the city and then Charlottenburgh Township entered into an agreement to operate the airport via the Cornwall Regional Airport Commission.
Coun. Syd Gardiner, the city’s representative on the airport commission, said debating the future of the airport is coming too late, given the money that has already been spent.
“The question here is whether we’re in the airport business but in the last 10 years we’ve put in 1.8 million into that airport,” he said. “If we’re not in the business I don’t know why we spent that money.”
It was pointed out to Gardiner, by Coun. Denis Carr, that the airport is not used by large corporate groups looking to travel to the city.
Gardiner replied that the airport can’t handle large aircraft because the runway is too short.
The airport commission wants council to provide a letter of support be forwarded through MP Guy Lauzon to the federal government requesting funding for the expansion of the runway.
Currently, the agreement sets out a cost sharing of 85 per cent from the city and 15 per cent from South Glengarry, which also includes a $10,000 cap for the township.
Gardiner said the airport commission wants to “commercialize” the facility. But many argue its time has passed. “How much money do we keep dumping into this thing before we say that’s enough?” said Coun. Andre Rivette. “And this formula doesn’t work – we don’t want to pay 85 per cent.” Coun. David Murphy was of a similar mind. “Do we need one? I would think so – but I’m not totally sold on it,” he said. “And I will need a sell job to change my mind.”
City council voted to create a committee to examine Cornwall’s continued relationship with the airport.
Coun. Maurice Dupelle took a shot at the city’s economic development department which was absent from Monday night’s meeting, by noting the airport has been used as a tool to promote economic development in Cornwall. “It’s kind of surprising actually,” he said. City CAO Norm Levac said city staff did not expect Monday’s debate to become a fundamental question concerning the future of the airport.