Waterville Airport sign
Councillors will outnumber citizen representatives on the new County of Kings airport relocation committee.
Chief Administrative Officer Tom MacEwan brought the draft terms of reference for the committee to council for consideration on Jan. 7. Coun. Mike Ennis moved to name Warden Diana Brothers, Deputy Warden Brian Hirtle, area Coun. Bob Best and Coun. Jim Winsor, who has years of experience managing airports, as the four council members on the committee.
The draft terms of reference called for two members of the aviation community and three non-aviation community members. However, Ennis pointed out that the municipality owns the Waterville airport property and it would be “five to four off the start” if the terms of reference weren’t amended. He suggested having one representative from the airport community and two citizen members at large.
“I’m willing to make those motions,” Ennis said.
Ennis’s motion to establish the council representation passed. Coun. Wayne Atwater suggested that the three citizen members should come from the eastern, central and western areas of the municipality.
MacEwan said the nominating committee would determine the citizen reps and could try to facilitate the geographic suggestion and the mix of aviators and non-aviators.
Winsor, who helped establish the draft terms of reference, pointed out that the committee would be advisory in nature, not a decision making body. He said there is nothing to fear having five citizen appointees.
“They’re not making any formal decisions,” Winsor said. “I plead with you to not diminish the public participation.”
However, the motion to have three instead of five citizen members carried. MacEwan pointed out that site selection for a new airport would be part of committee discussions. This means that in-camera confidentiality having to do with land negotiations as outlined by the Municipal Government Act would apply.
“Relocating the airport is a big deal,” MacEwan said. “Some information flowing to the committee will be confidential in nature.”
The provincial Waterville Municipal Airport Relocation Study released last year identified and assessed four potential sites, including development of an airpark at 14 Wing Greenwood. However, information on other specific locations and land price estimates were removed from the report to allow for public release.
Council amended the draft terms of reference to include mention of in-camera confidentiality and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which would also apply. Council approved the terms of reference as amended.
Following the meeting, Warden Diana Brothers said the terms are fairly standard. In regard to citizen representation, using the soon to be re-established planning advisory committee as an example, Brothers said it has been past committee practice to have three citizen representatives selected with geography in mind.
“It’s our view that we certainly want the public on the committee,” she said.
County would dedicate land sale proceeds to relocation project
If Michelin decides to buy the Waterville airport to expand their plant, the county will dedicate any proceeds to an airport relocation fund. This would serve as the municipal contribution to the project.
Kings County council passed a motion to this effect following an in-camera session on Jan. 7. Warden Diana Brothers said she asked council to endorse the motion and it was supported unanimously.
“Any proceeds (from a potential sale) will be our contribution to the overall relocation project,” Brothers said. “It will not affect the tax rate.”
She said she wanted to send three messages: one to the airport community that the county is committed to their contribution; one to constituents that no additional tax dollars would be used to move the airport and a message to the province that the county is committed to making a contribution and wants the province to make a commitment.
Although there has been no provincial funding commitment to date, Brothers cites Kings West MLA Leo Glavine for playing “a key role in bringing this together.”
Michelin, which neighbours the current 94-acre municipal airport, has indicated there is potential to expand the Waterville plant. However, they would need the land currently occupied by the airport. County council has committed to making the land available to Michelin for such an expansion.