UPDATE Council votes to relocate Waterville airport to 14 Wing Greenwood

John Decoste jdecoste@kingscountynews.ca
Published on July 29, 2014

Lengthy discussion culminates in 6-5 vote in favour of relocating airport. 

County council has narrowly approved a plan to relocate the municipal airport to 14 Wing Greenwood.

After a lengthy discussion during a special meeting July 29, council voted 6-5 in favour of the strategy, prepared and recommended by chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan.

The county will play no role in the operation and management of the relocated airport.

MacEwan termed this “a significant change in direction” for the county. He added that a relocation of the airport to 14 Wing “is the only option the municipality will be willing to support financially.”

Ongoing negotiations into the future of the relocated airport will be conducted between 14 Wing and the aviation community. The intention is that the relocated airport will be owned and managed by an arm’s-length organization, operating as a business.

In order for those ongoing discussions to take place, the Sept. 30 closure date for the Waterville airport, agreed on by council March 10, will be extended to March 31, 2015, providing the aviation users confirm their agreement, in writing, prior to Aug. 31.

MacEwan added that following these discussions, should an agreement prove unworkable, he would commit to bringing another proposal back to council.


Lengthy recommendations

The strategy included a total of 18 recommendations. As part of it, council agreed to provide funding toward the hiring of a consultant to work with the aviation users in creating a governing body for the relocated airport, as well as funding toward the creation of a business plan for the long-term operation and management of the facility.

Deputy Warden Brian Hirtle moved the acceptance of the recommendation.

“I believe this motion has not come lightly,” he said. “There has been input from a lot of people into bringing this forward.”

Hirtle described the strategy as “ the right move, and the right time for the move.”

As part of a discussion lasting more than three hours, several councillors spoke against the motion, including the four – Jim Winsor, Pauline Raven, Patricia Bishop and Emma Van Rooyen – who, earlier in the day, had issued a press release stating their opposition to the proposal.

Read more about the press release here.

Raven described the proposal as “an omnibus motion” and added, “there are many things about it that cause me great concern.”

“I feel we’re moving far too quickly here. I don’t feel I have the information to agree with this.”

Bishop said the county had two choices.

“We can push people away from each other, or bring them together. We haven’t framed this in a way to create a solution to the problem,” she said.

“I don’t see that this is going to lead us to a happy, healthy community. There are going to be more frustrations, and more losses.”

Bishop said the closure date for the airport should be extended “until the relocation committee can come back to us with a plan.”

Coun. Wayne Atwater also voted against the motion.

“If we have to vote for all the recommendations at once, I won’t be able to do that,” he said.

“I don’t think this will pass tonight if we have to pass it all.”

Later in the discussion, Atwater suggested it was important that all councillors work together.

“If this ends up a 6-5 vote, that isn’t good for the municipality,” he said.

“Let’s continue with the business case study and the relocation committee, which is willing to continue its work.”

Atwater suggested deferring the vote on the recommendation until the October council meeting, while letting both the business case study and the relocation committee continue, and moved an amendment to that effect.

Bishop moved another amendment, extending the Sept. 30 closure date to March 31, 2015 as included in the proposed strategy.

The amendment was defeated 6-5, and the vote on the original motion also ended in a 6-5 split. Van Rooyen chose to abstain, but her abstention was counted as a negative vote.

More than 60 people were in the gallery to hear the discussion. Every speaker against the recommendation drew applause and murmurs of approval from many in the audience.

Large attendance

More than 60 people were in the gallery to hear the discussion. Every speaker against the recommendation drew applause and murmurs of approval from many in the audience.

Cyril Mosher, one of those in attendance, was “disgusted with the reprehensible antics of the leadership of this council,” he said.

“The problem of relocating the Waterville airport should have been a relatively straightforward one, had you chosen to co-operate and consult with the aviation community rather than shutting them out,” he said.

“In the process, you tried your damndest to make the public feel that we are opposed to a Michelin expansion. You have treated us deplorably, treated us as second-class citizens, despite the fact that a substantial portion of your salaries are generated by the economic spinoffs generated by the airport and the many taxpayers that make its existence viable.”