Warden Diana Brothers says county council needs to stay focus on potential tire company expansion in its dealings with the Waterville airport.
The County of Kings is ahead of the curve when it comes to a recent letter from the province regarding the potential expansion of the Waterville Michelin plant, she said, and the relocation of the municipal airport.
Brothers said land title and boundary work the province has offered to pay for has already been completed. The warden and chief administrator have signed the deed to consolidate all the airport land into one parcel, as the approximately 94 acres of property in a number of smaller lots.
“The next step will be for the province and Michelin to identify the land needed,” Brothers said. “Once they do that, we will subdivide to get the parcel that is required.”
In a recent letter to Brothers from Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Michel Samson, he said the province couldn’t commit to making a contribution toward possible airport relocation costs without the benefit of a detailed assessment, including the business case. The letter states the department shares the county’s interest in understanding the need and opportunity to relocate the airport. The province is willing to cost share such an assessment “in order to benefit from its findings.”
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The Minister suggested the province and municipality develop a purchase and sale agreement that would define the terms and conditions for a future transaction, should Michelin want the land. Efforts to research the land title and conduct environmental assessments would be part of developing the agreement.
Brothers said, if the province requires environmental assessments, the municipality will make the arrangements to have it done and the province could pay for it. However, the municipality is suggesting that environmental assessments wouldn’t be necessary for this project.
Brothers said the municipality would prefer if the province would pay fully for the business case assessment, with county council setting the terms of reference for the study.
“I have asked them and I will continue to ask them to fully cost the study,” she said.
Brothers said discussions are ongoing and council will make decisions when the time comes. She said there has been lots of talk around a smooth transition from the current airport to a new location. If the business case study is positive, council still has to review and adopt it and deal with the funding issue.
The question is, can we risk losing the opportunity presented by the potential half billion dollar Michelin expansion and the more than 230 jobs created? Kings County Warden Diana Brothers
The business case assessment could take a year and a half to two years to complete. Brothers said, meanwhile, other communities in the province are trying to attract investment from Michelin and the county is in competition. However, Brothes said she thinks Kings County is “in good shape.
“The question is, can we risk losing the opportunity presented by the potential half billion dollar Michelin expansion and the more than 230 jobs created?” Brothers said.
Editor's note: After Michelin Canada announced March 3 it would be cutting 500 jobs in Pictou County, Brothers did not reply to kingscountynews.ca’s request for a comment.
A special council meeting on the airport topic is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Kings County municipal building in Kentville.