There was a large crowd in attendance at the information meeting in Canning last Thursday night. Sponsored by the North East Kings Citizens Group, the meeting was well-organized and well-run. The whole airport question got explained and discussed. I went home wondering if a compromise solution is possible.
The facts seem to be clear: the aircraft owners and businesspeople in Waterville want to stay there. Michelin, locally, is part of an international company and when a decision to expand is made, bids from many local plants are asked for. The Waterville plant needs to expand northward across the existing runway because of their plant layout if they are to expand. In order to submit a bid, they need to own the land needed. No decision has been made as to when a bid may be called for.
I can understand that the county (the present owner of the land) is in a tough position – they don’t want to be responsible for blocking an expansion of a business of this importance. It seems, from what came out at the meeting, that the issue has been handled poorly by the county. In-camera meetings and unclear press releases have not helped.
The Saxon Street residents clearly don’t want a possible relocation of the Waterville Airport to end up in their neighbourhood. They gave good reasons for this stand.
There was a hint that maybe enough land to meet Michelin’s needs could be spared and a realignment of the runway would allow the airport to continue operations. I don’t know if this has been seriously explored by all parties, but it seems like it should be.
It seems to this over-the-hill-old-farmer that our airpark development would make more sense as a redevelopment of an existing airstrip than disrupting a new area of this agricultural county. I don’t think that the idea should be dismissed out of hand because new developments mean new markets and a boost to our economy. Surely, there is a way to solve this mess without wrecking existing businesses both in Waterville and on Saxon Street.