CORNWALL, Ontario - City taxpayers could soon be asked to fill the wings of a multi-million dollar commitment to expand the Cornwall Regional Airport - but councillors aren't ready to bring the plan in for a landing just yet.
City councillors were pitched on a $5.2-million expansion plan for the airport Monday night. The expansion would include extending the airport’s runway to 5,000 feet from the existing 3,500 and would see the construction of a new terminal.
South Glengarry is also being presented with the same expansion plan, and both municipalities would share the cost of such a move.
City councillors defered making a decision on the plan, as it wants more information on just why it has to pay such a hefty bill.
Typically the city would pick up a significant portion of the municipal portion of the construction bill, with South Glengarry covering the balance. Federal and provincial government funding would also be sought for such a project, though just how much they would be willing to spend remains to be seen.
John Rattray, a member of the airport commission, told city councillors the expansion would mean significant economic spinoffs in the area.
“The key thing about 5,000 feet is it would allow for corporate aircraft – which would spawn other business like maintenance and overhaul,” he said.
Fern Hamelin, another member of the airport commission, said tacit municipal support is required now before taking the next step and going to senior government officials.
“This is one step…in many steps that we need to do that (shows) both councils have a will to work at the expansion of the airport as plans are developed,” he said.
Councillors appeared impressed with the plan, though specific dollars have not been earmarked at this time and many had questions about why the city must put up the lion's share of the municipal share when it receives no tax revenue.
And there are some questions about the operating costs of a new expanded airport. An estimate on operating costs hasn’t been done since 2008.
“That’s quite some time,” said Coun. Andre Rivette. “I think both municipalities would love to have the updated costs – because we’re not working for $2 an hour anymore. This is 2013.”
City councillors voted to defer a decision on the project, to get more information to build a case to save city taxpayers money.
Many said the move does not speak against the project specifically.
"I think council wants just a little bit more information," said Mayor Bob Kilger.