A plane taxis down the runway at the Waterville airport. County council agreed last week to divest itself of the land the airport is located on for a potential future expansion at Michelin. – John DeCoste, www.kingscountynews.ca
By Kirk Starratt
It looks like parachute enthusiasts involved with the jump school at the municipal airport in Waterville will have to find somewhere else to land.
That’s just one change that will take place at the airport as the result of an eight-part motion approved by Kings County Council recently. The motion came about following a discussion of issues surrounding the management agreement between the county and the Waterville Airport Co-operative Limited.
The county’s motion requires the jump school to cease using the airport as the drop zone for their operations. Gordon Squires, spokesman for Waterville Airport Co-op and citizen stakeholders, said everyone is very supportive of there being a jump school at the airport, as there has been for a couple decades. The issue is the location of the drop zone for parachute enthusiasts. Squires points out that the jump school wasn’t given any advance notice of the change.
“We’ve been told the county decided that having them land there creates a significant liability they aren’t willing to be part of,” he said.
Squires said there is a protocol in place for the jump pilot and landing airplanes to maintain radio contact. He said the jump school is also required to have $5 million in insurance coverage, with the municipality as a named insured party. Everyone else doing business at the airport is required to have $2 million in insurance coverage.
Another part of the motion requires people involved in the jump school to stop using the airport property as a campground. Squires said several long-term jumpers have campers on the grounds, but both the airport co-op and the county agree they shouldn’t be there. Squires said the airport co-op wishes the municipality had dealt with the bylaw enforcement issue years ago.
Fuel tanks an issue
The motion also calls for the co-op to provide proof or demonstrate serious efforts that the containment of the fuel tanks is being addressed in a timely fashion. Squires said safety is their number-one concern. If there were a safety issue with the tanks, it would be taken care of. However, the co-op has no concerns.
“They’re inspected visually daily, all around the outside, so we know there are no leaks,” Squires said, pointing out that one of the two above-ground tanks is no longer in use.
He said it was a low-volume sales tank, so the co-op decided to leave it empty and deal with the topic when the airport moves. However, even the empty tank is visually inspected every business day.
County changing leases
By early October, the county will now require all tenants to be under a standard, 30-day lease. Many tenants already under that lease, said Squires. The lease includes a 90-day eviction clause, in which time hangar owners would be expected to have their buildings removed, without compensation, if the airport were to close or move.
Squires said the airport co-op has been on record since the beginning showing support for a potential expansion by tire making giant Michelin onto the airport land. However, he doesn’t want to see the municipality help facilitate a Michelin expansion at the expense of those who have invested heavily in businesses at the airport.
The motion also calls for the municipality to seek advice on what the market value of the airport land is and to amend rent fees to reflect that. Squires said it’s unknown at this time what the impact of this would be on business owners.
Council approved the eight-part motion following an in-camera discussion. Warden Diana Brothers said this was the follow-through from a June 11 motion, when council directed Chief Administrative Officer Tom MacEwan to meet with the airport co-op to discuss issues arising from the management agreement with the county. These include insurance and leases.
Brothers said MacEwan conducted an extensive review of the management agreement and prepared a report with recommendations for council.
Council’s eight-part motion states that the municipality will…
- Require within 30 days that all tenants execute the standard form lease that the majority of tenants are operating under, thereby ensuring that the Municipality is properly indemnified from potential losses by those parties benefitting from the use of the airport as a place of business.
- Require within 30 days that all tenants provide proof of insurance with the Municipality as a named insured and in the proper amount.
- Require that Waterville Airport Co-operative Limited provide proof or demonstrate serious efforts that the containment of the fuel tanks is being addressed in a timely fashion.
- Require that the Jump School cease using the Waterville Airport as the drop zone for its operations.
- Require that the Jump School cease immediately using the Waterville Airport as a campground.
- Review the co-op’s Bylaws and, if appropriate, introduce amendments and measures to ensure that a majority of the co-op Board is independent, arm’s length parties.
- Increase oversight of the co-op’s management of the Waterville Airport with regular reporting on management objectives, proposed policies and co-op board meetings.
- Determine the market value of the Waterville Airport leased lands and discuss amending the rent fees with the tenants.