Kings County Warden Brothers got first page coverage in the Halifax Herald on June 24 about starting talks over the future of Waterville airport lands. Apparently, she is now ready to look at alternative closure dates. In my opinion, what's being said by the Warden and her CAO needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
It sounds good to hear that there's a willingness to talk with people and discuss alternate dates for the airport's closure all with a view to making rational decisions. Should we expect anything less from an elected official who runs the third largest municipality in the province?
However, as a part owner of an aircraft, and a member of the local flying association, I have witnessed this warden and CAO have had plenty of opportunities to meet and discuss the issues with key stakeholders. It was after an in-camera meeting in March of this year that the warden and CAO emerged with a motion to close the airport effective Sept. 30.
This was the first time members of the airport's management and the airports' users had heard of an imminent closure. We were appalled. Businesses at the airport heard the news via the press and had no opportunity to influence the closure date. So much for discussion and rational decisions. Her own council members had received a confidential memo enclosing the details only hours prior to the in-camera session.
Now, with less than 99 days to go to the closure of the airport, there is suddenly a willingness to talk?
A rational decision on the closure date would have required discussions with the airport's management in the years prior to March 2014 when this unworkable closure date was so suddenly announced. We were told Sept. 30 was the date Michelin had to have. This irrational, premature decision has resulted in hardships beyond what I can describe here. And it now turns out that this was not the date Michelin had to have at all. In the warden's own words, Michelin is now open to discussion.
The idea of a project timeline and a rational decision is not a new one. A rational approach would have planned a closure date that coincided with an opening date for a relocated airport. A few councillors, particularly Councillor Winsor, who managed 52 airports in Northern Canada prior to retiring to Kings County, has long advocated for such a process to be put in place. Councillor Raven, who has publicly stated that her support for the airport closure was based on faulty information, has tried twice to gain some breathing space by extending the date of closure by at least a year. Councillor Bishop saw the lack of merit for the date chosen from the start and was the sole vote against the closure.
The warden's position that a pending legal action would need to be resolved before the closure date would be changed is unacceptable. The county's relationship is with the Waterville Airport Co-operative and the co-operative is not involved in any legal action.
CAO MacEwan is crediting the announcement of this premature closure date as the reason that now, “interests are lining up to solve the problem.” If he means that the date was chosen to force people to the table, that is a different perspective than was shared on March 30 when the date was announced as the date Michelin must have to allow an expansion to go forward.
Regardless, force is in my opinion a bad way for any CAO or Warden to conduct government business. The CAO knows that the aviation community had pleaded long and hard to be invited to the table. Instead, we were shut out and could only hope that whatever was happening with the warden and CAO behind closed doors with Michelin, the province and councillors could help our situation.
Things in Kings County need a shake-up. Starting at the top where there is a sad lack of transparency and leadership. The statements by Warden Brothers and CAO MacEwan shamelessly ignore the facts.
Ted Davison is the owner of DaFor Construction Ltd. and is a member of the Kings County aviation community with over 25 years flying experience at the Waterville Municipal Airport.