Kings County CAO: Airport counter proposal contrary to Municipal Government Act

Kirk Starratt
Published on August 28, 2014

Kings County's chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan speaks to council June 16.

©John DeCoste -

The County of Kings isn’t accepting a counter proposal relating to the closure of the municipal airport in Waterville.

Chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan has said the proposal presented by the Waterville Airport Co-operative Ltd. and the hangar owners group would require the municipality to perform action contrary to the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

“Although I will not discuss settlement negotiations in the media, I will say that it does not take long to formulate a response when asked to consider doing something that the Municipality of Kings is statutorily prohibited from doing,” MacEwan said in an Aug. 25 email.

MacEwan said the Waterville Airport Co-operative, a for-profit company with 45 shares issued, wants the municipality to give it in excess of $1.8 million. However, the spending powers of a municipal unit, which are set by the MGA, do not include the ability to fund for-profit companies.

He said the hangar owners, a combination of individuals and businesses, lease land from the municipality at a cost of approximately $0.50 per square foot a year. They want the municipality to give them the land they lease. However, the ability of a municipal unit to sell land is set by the Municipal Government Act and “the statute provides that lands can be sold at fair market value with some limited ability to sell lands to non-profit organizations at less than market value.”

The airport co-op recently decided to join the hangar owners as an applicant in Supreme Court legal action in an attempt to have the terms of their airport management agreement with the county upheld.

Hangar owner spokesman Dr. Tom Goddard said recently that if the municipality would agree to honour the terms and postpone the closure date of the airport to Sept. 30, 2015, the legal action would be withdrawn.

Council voted in favour of a strategy on July 29 that includes the relocation of the airport to 14 Wing Greenwood. Ongoing negotiations into the future of the relocated airport would be conducted between 14 Wing and the aviation community. The intention is for the relocated airport to be owned and managed by an arm’s-length organization operating as a business.

In order for those negotiations to take place, the closure date of the airport would be extended from Sept. 30 of this year to March 31, 2015, providing that aviation users confirm their agreement, in writing, prior to Aug. 31.

The municipality was given until Aug. 22 to accept the counter proposal presented by the hangar owners and the airport co-op. It called for a restructured or replacement entity for airport co-op to be the new governing body that would operate and manage a new airport location.

The proposal called for a minimum of $1.8 million in infrastructure funding, the estimated sale price of the current Waterville airport land to Michelin, to be paid to the airport co-op by the municipality immediately to finance the airport relocation, and more funding would be provided by any amount received by the county for the sale of the airport property in excess of $1.8 million.

The property on which the respective hangars owners currently have their hangars would be subdivided and granted to the hangar owners.


Also in the counter proposal

The counter proposal presented by the airport co-op and hangar owners also called for the restructured entity to be the body to organize and negotiate with all relevant parties with respect to a new airport location.

The restructured entity would assume responsibility in all expense issues relating to the airport relocation: it would not look after any site remediation at the current Waterville airport site. The restructured entity would investigate the best option for relocation, whether it’s Greenwood or a green field.

It called for $32,000 to be granted by the municipality to the co-op to be used for a consultant to create a 10-year business plan for the new airport facility.

It called for $10,000 to be granted by the county to the airport co-op to be used for a consultant to provide recommendations on the governance model best suited for the long-term ownership, management and operation of the new airport facility. Ownership in all airport related equipment and structures located on the Waterville airport property and owned by the municipality would be transferred to the co-op.

The county would honour all terms, including those with respect to the date on which the municipality may close the airport, presently contained in leases and contracts between the municipality and airport co-op and respective hangar owners.

The proposal called for the county to grant an extension of the current management agreement with the restructured entity to the point in time that a green field or Greenwood general aviation airport is operational.

If all conditions were met, the hangar owners would have withdrawn their lawsuit with no costs payable to any party.