Warden Diana Brothers. File
By Kirk Starratt
Kings County’s warden wants meetings with provincial party leaders to ask them a hard question: would your government fund the relocation of the Waterville airport?
As of Sept. 26, Diana Brothers had received only one response to a letter sent to NDP Premier Darrell Dexter, Liberal leader Stephen McNeil, and Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie.
“The intent is to meet with each of them before the election and find out what their commitment is about paying for the relocation of the airport,” Brothers said of her Sept. 13 request.
The letter outlines actions taken to date in regard to the proposed relocation of the airport to make room for a potential expansion of the Michelin plant and whether each party would “fund the relocation of the Waterville Municipal Airport without contribution from the municipality.”
Brothers asked for a meeting with each leader to discuss the relocation, but only McNeil has responded so far. She said McNeil recognized the value of a possible expansion by Michelin and, if elected, his government would be willing to work with the municipality.
“I met with him and he told me that, after the election, if he becomes premier, this will be a priority and he’ll be making time to meet with us,” Brothers said.
We really feel we’ve stepped to the plate here for accommodating the possible relocation. Kings County Warden Diana Brothers
Brothers pointed out the province approached the municipality about the possible expansion by Michelin and the need to relocate the airport. So, she thinks the province should pay for the move, not Kings County taxpayers.
“We really feel we’ve stepped to the plate here for accommodating the possible relocation,” Brothers said.
A provincial relocation study states it would cost $9.6 million to build a stand-alone airport, which doesn’t take into account land costs. It would cost an additional $2 million to build a 5,000-foot runway, as local aviation stakeholders would prefer. Another option, moving the airport to 14 Wing Greenwood, is expected to cost $6.7 million.
Hypothetically, if the airport relocation were to cost $9 million and the province committed to paying only one-third, the municipality could be on the hook for as much as $6 million. If the county had to fund this in a single year, the property tax increase could be too much for municipal ratepayers to endure, she added.
A one-cent increase to the residential tax rate would raise $250,000, while adding one cent to the commercial tax rate would generate $35,000. To raise $6 million in one fiscal year, the residential and commercial tax rates would have to increase by approximately 21 cents for every $100 of assessed property value. The current residential and resource tax rate is 85.3 cents per every $100 of assessed property value and the current commercial rate is $2.287 for every $100 of assessment.
An expansion by Michelin could mean new full-time jobs and a further capital investment of up to half a billion dollars, but the company has not committed to such an expansion.