Coun­cil­lors openly con­sider sev­er­ing air­port re­la­tion­ship

Seaway News - - NEWS - Todd Li­hou

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.

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