Waterville Airport sign
If Michelin decides to buy the Waterville airport to expand their plant, the county will dedicate any proceeds to an airport relocation fund, county council pledged.
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: to the airport community that the county is committed to their contribution; to constituents that no additional tax dollars would be used to move the airport; and to the province that the county is committed 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 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 expansion.
Uncertainty impacts airport
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Former Waterville Airport Co-op board chairman Walter Isenor wonders what exactly is happening if the municipality plans to divest the airport land.
Isenor said the level of uncertainty surrounding the future of the airport is costing people money. Some people with a lot invested in the facility don’t know what to do. People won’t be building any new hangars, as some have expressed an interest in doing, until the cloud of doubt clears.
“Why would you invest in a new airplane when you might not be able to land it on that airport?” Isenor said. “Where do you go?”
Even if a timeframe of several years had to be assigned to the relocation project, Isenor said a firm commitment from the municipality to build a new airport would eliminate uncertainty.
“We have to have some agreement that there is going to be a new airport,” Isenor said. “If we’re committed to Michelin, are we committed to a new airport?”
If the airport is definitely moving, Isenor suggests approaching Michelin for financial help. He believes a firm commitment from the municipality equates to a land purchase, even if the money has to be borrowed up front.
“If they’ve identified land that works, why not buy it right now?” Isenor said.