County commits to divesting land to Michelin
A plane taxis down the runway at the Waterville airport. County council agreed last week to divest itself of the land the airport is located on for a potential future expansion at Michelin. – John DeCoste, www.kingscountynews.ca
By Kirk Starratt
It looks like the Kings County Municipal Airport in Waterville is going to have to move.
The county formally committed to making land currently occupied by the airport available to Michelin to help facilitate a future expansion. Before voting to go in-camera for further discussion at the Aug. 13 session, Warden Diana Brothers stepped down from the chair to move a motion regarding the land.
The motion, later approved by council, read, “In order to position itself to take advantage of future opportunities with respect to the possible expansion of the Michelin plant, the Municipality of Kings is prepared to divest itself of the lands identified by Michelin as being necessary for the expansion of the production line at the Waterville plant as soon as is reasonably possible, taking into consideration all relevant factors, including the relocation of the municipal airport.”
Brothers told council there was more information to share in-camera. Following a conference call last week with Michelin, she said she felt the motion was necessary. Brothers said the time has come for council to do something formal, which they haven't done to date.
“This would make the commitment to Michelin that we’re serious about their request,” she said.
Brothers pointed out that council has the responsibility to do what is in the best interest of constituents. Just before going in-camera, she said the possible expansion could represent a $500 million investment and up to 230 new jobs. She said she would “hate to be the one sitting in the chair” if the municipality were to lose out on a potential Michelin investment.
Brothers said the airport co-op has expressed support for the Michelin expansion and added that council remains committed to finding a new location for the municipal airport, whether it’s at 14 Wing Greenwood or elsewhere.
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Coun. Jim Winsor said he hoped council could look at accommodating Michelin and the airport relocation “on two parallel tracks.” Coun. Pauline Raven said she is confident both items could be handled simultaneously.
“I think the goodwill is there for everything to happen on a parallel track,” Raven said.
Coun. Patricia Bishop said she supports Michelin but she wants the facts on what “divestment” actually is and the ramifications it would have on taxpayers.
In addition to the feasibility study being requested from 14 Wing Greenwood on whether the municipal airport could be relocated there, council passed a motion to have the CAO identify at least two sites that could host an airport with a 5,000-foot runway. The selection criteria adopted by consultant CBCL in their provincial Waterville Airport Relocation Study would be used.
Winsor and Bishop both expressed concern over reinventing the wheel. The provincial study was to identify three potential sites but that information hasn't been publicly released.
“Let's get the information from the province,” Winsor said.
Brothers said the municipality owns another large parcel of land in Waterville, but some people have suggested it couldn’t be used as an airport. However, she suggested that additional land could possibly be purchased.
Coun. Kim MacQuarrie declared a conflict of interest and didn’t participate in the in-camera discussion or subsequent votes.
A public meeting on the topic is scheduled for the Kings County council chambers on Aug. 21 from 6-8 p.m.