Editorial No winner in airport closure

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The pending closure of the Kings County Municipal Airport in the Waterville area is creating controversy in communities across the Valley and beyond. 

The expansion of the nearby Michelin plant has been talked about at Kings County Council for two years now. Council has said the company needs the land to facilitate a future, but never publicly discussed, expansion. Earlier this year, council voted in favour of closing the airport as of Sept. 30, and a proposal floated by councillors Pauline Raven, Patricia Bishop and Emma Van Rooyen to strike a deal with Michelin that would allow users to continue to operate at the existing site until Michelin required the land for site work was shot down by the rest of council.

However, the chorus of voices opposing closing the airport at all appears to be gaining strength.

Word that council has been presented with a proposal from the Waterville Airport Co-operative to relocate the airport to privately-owned farmland in Saxon Street in Canning has locals riled up and generated unrest in the community. Kings County Warden Diana Brothers has said council has yet to review the proposal for an airpark being circulated by Gordon Squires, chairman of the Waterville Airport Co-operative, which could include a 3,500-foot runway with room to expand, a terminal building, hangars, RV spaces, residential homes and hangar lots.

Locals are justifiably concerned about the impact of putting an airport in prime farmland and to wildlife, particularly populations of migratory birds.

At Kings County council’s most recent meeting, Ernest Cadegan said he was “gobsmacked” by the notion of an airport in Canning and the North East Kings Citizens Group is vowing to fight the possibility. They say it should be moved somewhere that isn’t prime farmland or left where it is. Its members are to be credited for getting ahead of this issue, which has the potential to alter their community. 

Squires says the site was chosen because of two existing grass landing strips used by the property owner. He says the group respects farmland and will replace any that it uses as an airpark. While the co-operative would prefer the airport not be moved at all, he says it’s imperative that it’s located in the eastern part of the county and not at 14 Wing Greenwood. He believes moving it further away from the population base of Halifax will spell economic ruin for the airport.

The Annapolis Valley Flying Association, comprised of local and out-of-area airport users, also recently started pushing back against council’s March 10 near-unanimous decision to close the existing airfield. A Save the Airport Campaign will soon be launched to educate the public and municipal politicians about the economic value of the airport.

The group’s effort is valiant, albeit a bit late, perhaps. The initiative might have had more weight if introduced when county council members first started their airport closure discussions. 

When it comes to evaluating economic value, can the flying association demonstrate that economic spin-off from a facility with several small businesses with close to 20 employees can rival the potential addition of hundreds of new jobs at one of Kings County’s largest employers?

It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that Michelin is unwilling to be more forthcoming about its future expansion plans. This leaves Kings County looking like it supports an unsubstantiated  “what-if” scenario over the current viable business model that sustains the local municipal airport.

 

Organizations: Kings County Council, Kings County Municipal Airport, Waterville Airport Co North East Kings Citizens Group Annapolis Valley Flying Association Airport Campaign

Geographic location: Waterville, Canning, Saxon Street

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Recent comments

  • Nancy Sweeney
    June 16, 2014 - 14:32

    The "Save the Airport" Campaign was launched back in March. There have been several attempts to reach media and the public through this campaign with no avail. As for Jamie G's comments, the only handout in this deal is the handover of heavily discounted land to Michelin in place of an economic generating airport. Michelin isn't even bound by agreement to have to purchase the land once the airport is closed. Then what? We have an empty lot up for grabs because the Warden didn't like the airport... The Kings County Municipal Council is a prime example of how the people of Kings County are not living in a democracy - these councillors are elected to represent the people, the CAO who isn't elected but collects $149,000 of the taxpayers money gets to call the shots, and the people are forced to stay mute. Let vanRooyen, Raven and Bishop at least discuss in a civil forum the airport and the benefits of it in council!

  • Jamie G
    June 15, 2014 - 10:28

    The winners are the Kings County tax payers in all of this. Its been far too long that we having been paying for an airport that does not make the county any money. Kings County does not give free handouts to any other businesses in the county to make money and get nothing in return so why do people at the airport think they should be treated any differently? Get a life people, your handouts are over.

    • Another Concerned Citizen
      June 18, 2014 - 17:54

      Jamie You are ignorant of the FACTS. Any nominal support the MOK has given the airport has been returned many times over in taxes collected on the income generated at the airport and surrounding community. The CBCL study found that 154 people have jobs, mostly in the MOK, as a result of the airport and the (annual) GDP generated by the airport is $7.1 million. Still think it's a bad deal? Do you want your taxes to go up because the airport closed? The airport is a far better deal for the Valley than Michelin's $5 billion of investment in South Carolina because SC gives them many $millions and free land. Ask the Warden if she has that kind of money to give to a huge company that will take the profits out of the country, not reinvest in the local community!

  • Brenda Wheeler
    June 13, 2014 - 09:22

    No winner but plenty of losers. Our beautiful, thriving community airport will become another broken down eyesore for local residents when this group of incompetent councillors gets done with us. I suppose the Drive-In is next?

  • Agreed
    June 13, 2014 - 07:29

    I agree John, the council does seem dysfunctional. However I would be more interested in how we can vote to have vanRooyen, Raven and Bishop removed from council. Seems they are always at the head of controversy, and not the good kind.

    • john ross
      June 13, 2014 - 10:09

      Agreed Guess you didn't get my message......these 3 ladies are the only ones who dare "think outside the box" and that's exactly what we need in Kings Co and NS........unless you're content with the provinces steady decline under the same-o,same-o thinking of the same-o,same-o partisan leadership from the county right to the premier's office

    • Agreed
      June 13, 2014 - 16:06

      No John, I got it. I just don't agree with your point of view LoL. They certainly think outside the box...Into fantasy land

    • john ross
      June 17, 2014 - 11:39

      Did anyone ever ask the warden what the councils reason was for not allowing the airport to stay an airport until michelin makes a commitment?

  • john ross
    June 12, 2014 - 17:53

    Why on earth would the majority of councillors shoot down the suggestion of vanRooyen,Raven and Bishop to maintain the status quo until michelin makes a decision.What if Michelin decides not to expand?we'll end up with a barren piece of land and I doubt very much if any company would go near it...with councils previous decisions.This has got to be the most disfunctional bunch of councillors who appear to do their best to do the worst for citizens of Kings Co.Time for a full scale house cleaning of this sad excuse for a local govt.

    • Barbara Bishop
      June 17, 2014 - 18:15

      It's so ironic. Everyone wants us to get with the Ivaney Report- which supports the very thing that the Waterville Airport represents-small to medium stable business enterprises, run by and for Nova Scotians, so that we are not at the mercy of multi-nationals who pull up stakes without warning and leave us high and dry. And please note- the economic impact of the airport goes far beyond 20 jobs- 154 is the consultant's figure once all factors are counted. The airport does not take money- it brings in money! And Council has acted like a wrecking crew instead of a reasoned and visionary elected body. The haste is indecent and the motives murky.

    • Don Ledger
      June 18, 2014 - 18:55

      How can the Kings County taxpayers be winners when they will lose an airport that DOES make money.The provinces report stated somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.4 million a year as opposed to the measly $65 grand the county puts in each year. Smarten up Jamie. The report said that the airport supports or impacts 127 jobs in the area. I want to see the look on your face when Michelin leaves the area for South Carolina to join the other 9 plants it has there already.Frankly it makes me shake my head at how stupid people can be about how jobs are created..