The Standard (St. Catharines)

Operation, management of airport to be discussed Tuesday

Staff recommends politician­s endorse seeking private-sector partner

- RAY SPITERI

Niagara Falls city council will consider endorsing seeking a private-sector partner on a long-term lease for operation and management of Niagara District Airport.

The Town of Niagara-on-the-lake would maintain ownership control of the land off Niagara Stone Road.

Staff will recommend local politician­s back the idea, in principle, during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Staff is also recommendi­ng council endorse the issuance of a request of proposal for the airport’s operation, and direct staff to work with the chief administra­tive officers for Niagaraon-the-lake and St. Catharines, the chief executive officer of the airport and representa­tives of the airport liaison committee on the process.

The airport is governed by Niagara District Airport Commission, a joint municipal services board under the Municipal Act. The board was establishe­d in 1964.

The federal government transferre­d the land which the airport occupies to Niagara-on-the-lake in 2016, provided that the municipali­ty continues to operate the premises as an airport. The assets which are on the land are owned proportion­ately by the three municipali­ties.

The municipali­ties entered into an agreement to administer and maintain the airport through the

commission, in compliance with the requiremen­ts of Transport Canada in 2006 with a term expiring Dec. 31, 2026.

Niagara-on-the-lake, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines provide operating and capital funds. This year, they’re contributi­ng about $57,000, $290,000 and $436,000, respective­ly. The airport is running at an annual deficit of about $350,000 and requires capital expenditur­es in excess of $10 million to support its vision, mission and goals, said Niagara Falls staff.

In June 2015, Niagara Falls city council approved a motion supporting the dissolutio­n of the municipal service board operating the airport commission in favour of exploring a joint partnershi­p that would see Niagara Region oversee operations. Staff were directed to work with municipal counterpar­ts and the Region to draft agreements to implement the proposed changes.

Regional council directed its staff to work with the municipali­ties involved in the airport operations. Niagara Falls and St. Catharines passed similar motions.

In July 2016, the regional transporta­tion committee received a report from Region staff regarding the transfer of the airport recommendi­ng support, in principle, of adopting sole-responsibi­lity for the operation and governance of the airport and Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport in Pelham, and that a transition plan be developed, including budget and governance.

In September 2016, regional council approved the recommenda­tions, subject to the completion of a Phase 2 environmen­tal site assessment on each airport.

In April 2017, the airport liaison committee met to discuss the status of the transfer of Niagara District Airport to the Region or dispositio­n of the airport.

Four options were put forward for considerat­ion by council, including the transfer of assets and operations to the Region; a partnershi­p with the Region; a partnershi­p with the private sector; and the sale of the airport to the private sector.

In July 2018, Niagara Falls council directed staff to proceed with negotiatio­ns with the Region to develop a new governance model for the airport.

“A partnershi­p with a private-sector party could allow the airport to operate in a position of financial self-sufficienc­y.”

CITY OF NIAGARA FALLS STAFF

“While the 2018 direction from council was for staff to seek partnershi­p with the Region of Niagara as the preferred option, changing conditions and further discussion and evaluation has led the airport liaison committee to recommend that the municipali­ties partner with a private-sector party to operate the (airport),” said staff.

The private-sector partner would be a lessee of the land, signing a minimum 20-year lease, however, the definitive duration would be establishe­d through the RFP process. The plan would be to issue the RFP this month and have an agreement in place by September. A new agreement would require the consent of all three municipali­ties.

“A partnershi­p with a privatesec­tor party could allow the airport to operate in a position of financial self-sufficienc­y,” said staff.

“The Niagara region is currently one of the most underserve­d travel destinatio­ns by airport access in the country. Exploring the opportunit­y for a private-sector investor may contribute to the town’s economic security and competitiv­e ability and ensure the airport’s long-term viability.”

 ?? BOB TYMCZYSZYN TORSTAR ?? City of Niagara Falls staff will recommend council endorse, in principle, seeking an interested private-sector partner for Niagara District Airport.
BOB TYMCZYSZYN TORSTAR City of Niagara Falls staff will recommend council endorse, in principle, seeking an interested private-sector partner for Niagara District Airport.

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