Council Airport Consultant Staff Report

The possible sale of the Collingwood Regional Airport and a staff report to free up funds to pay for a consultant to look in to how the process could play out triggered some conflict between Mayor Sandra Cooper and Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson along with interesting discussion around the Collingwood Council table on Monday February 12th.

The purpose of the Staff Report was to request funds to retain Consulting Advisory Services in the Sale of the Collingwood Regional Airport.

C2018-01 Provision of Consulting Advisory Services in the Sale of the Collingwood Regional Airport

THAT Council receive Staff Report C2018-01 entitled “Consulting Advisory Services in the Sale of the Collingwood Regional Airport”;

AND THAT Council herein approve up to $100,000.00 from the land acquisition reserve fund to retain the above noted consulting advisory services.

Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson expressed his concern with the situation surrounding the possible sale of the airport and the apparent breakdown of the regional cooperation with the Town of Wasaga Beach in addition to the withdrawl of support by the Township of Clearview. He was interrupted by Mayor Cooper at one point when he brought up the name of a Clearview Township developer. The Mayor wanted Saunderson to speak only to the staff report to retain consulting advisory services, saying that any other comments should be offered during the “Other Business” portion of the meeting.

“So we’re looking at a consultant report, so under “Other Business” if you would like to raise the issues that you have before you that would be more appropriate procedurally.”

Saunderson responded by saying he was in fact speaking to the staff report on the table.

“I would question through to the Clerk, this is why I’m supporting it and this goes to the dialogue that we have been having with the municipalities which leads us to having to hire this consultant in part. If that seems to be the consensus with the Clerk then I’m prepared to do it under “Other Business” but I certainly think it’s relevant.”

Clerk Sara Almas said that Saunderson could continue to speak if he stayed on topic.

“As long as the deliberations are in response to the specific staff report I don’t see any concern.”

Mayor Cooper then allowed the Deputy Mayor to continue.

Saunderson continued by stating that he supported the initiative, adding that he sees the airport as an important regional asset. He said he has been frustrated with the actions of neighbouring municipalities, namely the town of Wasaga Beach and Clearview Township.

“As we know the Township of Clearview withdrew its annual contribution of $25,000 which they have provided over the past eleven years I believe, and withdrew their representative from the Collingwood Regional Airport Board. The Town of Wasaga Beach recently voted at a Committee of the Whole meeting to do the same thing contrary to a staff report encouraging them to stay involved.“

He said since 1997, Collingwood has spent, or lost, on average, $198,000 annually and has spent two million dollars on the airport in the past decade.

“ Clearview has committed $25,000 a year so over ten years they would have contributed $250,000, so they would do in eight years what we spend in one. During that same time period we paid property taxes to the Township of Clearview over ten years of $490,000.”

Saunderson said the Town of Wasaga Beach has contributed approximately $11,000 over the last four years.

“That means it would take them nineteen years to contribute to our airport what we contribute in one year alone.”

Saunderson said there are currently $3.5 million in upgrades needed to be carried out at the airport as a part of functional upkeep.

“Moving forward with the proposed development we would incur another four million dollars in capital upgrades, and the cost sharing in that arrangement hasn’t been discussed. This airport is in Clearview Township. We know that the possibility of the development which we all hope will happen, will generate $8.5 million in development charges for Clearview Township and $3.5 million annually in additional tax base. Collingwood and Wasaga Beach will not get a cent of those monies.”

He said he didn’t think it was fair for Collingwood tax payers to subsidize an asset in another community, adding that the purpose of the exercise was to look at ways to change the status quo make the airport a sustainable, important regional asset.

“I’m expressing some consternation and alarm at the way these things have been perceived and I think based on what I have been reading is it appears to me to be a wedge driven by a specific developer which is very disappointing.”

Councillor Deb Doherty said that there has been profound disappointment in the decisions on the regional partners.

“I for one as one member of Council would hope that one or both of these municipalities may take the opportunity to come forward and have a look at a possible acquisition or some feasible operation model for the airport, because at the end of the day it is true that our municipality no longer wants to underwrite the significant cost to the taxpayers to run that airport on a year-to-year basis, but in spite of that I think that generally many people and businesses in the area would take some comfort in having continued operation of this airport by a municipal interest as opposed to a private interest.”

Councillor Tim Fryer said that he too was troubled by the recent media attention the airport was getting, and that this was how points were being communicated to council.

“I am also troubled with the two million dollar losses that the Deputy Mayor referred to. Certainly a portion has to do with the challenge of the wind farm, and we were successful about that, so I have maintained all along that I am hoping that those expenditures are an investment in the value at the airport, but coming down to that, it really is a case of where the current model just isn’t going to work in my opinion. The only way we can find out about interest in the airport is to go through this process.”

Fryer said he is hopeful that the Town will get information to give options to consider. He said he believes the airport is very valuable and he looks forward to going through the process to see what information comes back.

Councillor Mike Edwards spoke as Chair of the Airport Board and council representative.

“I’d just like to say that we have always had a great relationship on the board, and it is disappointing to see what has transpired. I believe Wasaga Beach still has to make a final decision but I would like to say that in the past three terms that I have been on it (the airport board) I’ve always had the greatest cooperation and relationship with the other board members.”

The motion to accept the staff report was passed with Mayor Sandra Cooper and Councillor Kevin Lloyd voting against in the recorded vote.

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