Hangar owners want help with Waterville airport move

Kirk Starratt
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Tom Goddard, representing 11 pilots involved in hangar ownership at the airport, made a presentation to Kings County council recently. He requested financial assistance for hangar relocation be built into any plan to move the airport and for hangar owners to have a seat on the newly-established airport relocation committee.

By Kirk Starratt

kstarratt@kingscountynews.ca

KingsCountyNews.ca

 

A group of hangar owners at the Kings County Municipal Airport in Waterville want a seat at the table and financial help to relocate.

Tom Goddard, representing 11 pilots involved in hangar ownership at the airport, made a presentation to Kings County council recently. He requested financial assistance for hangar relocation be built into any plan to move the airport and for hangar owners to have a seat on the newly-established airport relocation committee.

Goddard said there’s a clause in the lease agreement with the municipality that allows the county to terminate the lease with 90 days notice if the airport closes. Hangar owners would have to remove their buildings and vacate the land within that timeframe.

When he signed the lease, Goddard understood that the eviction clause would only be triggered if the airport were closing for financial reasons. Goddard questioned whether this also included the county wanting to close for other reasons, such as giving the land to Michelin for a possible expansion of the Waterville plant.

“Nobody would have signed a lease saying ‘we can close at any time for any reason’,” Goddard said.

He said it was reasonable to think the current airport would continue to be financially viable and that there was a reasonable business case to build a hangar. Goddard said the hangar owners feel it’s unfair to exclude them from relocation funding. If the decision is made to relocate the airport to 14 Wing Greenwood, he said, there would be “no private investment in infrastructure at that site.”

Chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan said the lease agreement with the hangar owners is set up for chattels, or moveable personal property.

“It’s not reasonable to think you’d put up a tent at an airport that could be removed,” Goddard said. “We built permanent structures. Is that reasonable? We think it is.”

Warden Diana Brothers said she and MacEwan had met with Goddard and felt it was a good idea to have him appear before council to make his request. She said it’s in the municipality’s best interest to keep the door open, but not to negotiate a contract in public.

Goddard said the hangar owners are operating under the assumptions that the current airport will close and that council supports the relocation of the airport. However, success of a new airport will depend on usage, he added, and this means having hangars to house planes.

He said it’s important for council to understand the magnitude of investment at the municipal airport and the stress level of the hangar owners over the insecurity of their investments, totaling more than $1 million combined.

“There’s no market for these buildings with an uncertain future,” Goddard said. “We’re worried we’re going to lose our investment.”

He said there is no timeline set for the closure of the current airport and no official commitment by council to build a new one. Goddard said hangar owners are in the dark.

Goddard completed his presentation, but Warden Diana Brothers drew the question period to a halt after Goddard said the group had hired a lawyer to represent them.

“This conversation should end if there’s legal involved,” Brothers said.

Kings County council held an in-camera session on Nov. 19 relating to the municipal airport. However, there were no motions coming out of the closed-door meeting. Another in-camera session was held on Nov. 26, but no motions resulted. However, one councillor confirmed that an issue relating to the airport was on the agenda.

Organizations: Kings County council, Kings County Municipal Airport

Geographic location: Waterville

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