OPINION: Time for new airport deal

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By Nick Seebruch

Last Monday night, Cornwall City Council voted to terminate their agreement with the Township of South Glengarry to manage the Cornwall Regional Airport.

While I think that the airport is something that this region needs and is an asset, I don’t think that the agreement that existed would ever have seen it reach its full potential.

The former agreement saw the City of Cornwall pay 85 per cent of the airport’s operating budget and capital costs, with South Glengarry paying 15 per cent.

The City and South Glengarry went into this agreement to manage the airport in 1984. Cornwall hasn’t been happy with this arrangement for many years, and I wonder why they decided to enter into this agreement in the first place.

On top of paying only 15 per cent of the costs of the airport, the Township of South Glengarry also gets direct revenue from the property taxes on the airport, which is located in South Glengarry, not Cornwall.

Cornwall Council just didn’t seem to see the direct benefit of having an airport in the region.

City administration itself stated that in its view, the benefit to Cornwall was limited as the airport was mostly used by recreational flyers.

However, I think that the Cornwall Regional Airport serves more than just a niche market and that with some investment, under the right agreement, that it could become the asset that it was always envisioned to be.

As it stands now, the airport is used by the OPP and RCMP for their operations, including prisoner transport. The Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH) has also used the airport for doctors to fly in, to transport patients when inclement weather prevents the helicopter from landing at the hospital, and more recently the airport received a delivery of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that was bound for the CCH.

Additionally, the airport is actively used to train pilots.

On top of all of this, yes, the airport is used by recreational flyers, which does bring in some money to the local economy.

It has long been known that a major handicap for the airport was its short runway. This past summer, consulting firm Explorer Solutions presented a 40-year business plan to both South Glengarry and Cornwall City councils. One of the top recommendations of that plan was to extend the Cornwall Regional Airport’s runway by 1,500 ft.

This plan also presented a business model under which the airport would be expected to generate $1 million to $1.7 million over the next 20 years, which could be used to help fund these improvements to the airport and increase its revenue potential.

There were three members of Cornwall City Council who voted against terminating the agreement with the Cornwall Regional Airport, Dean Hollingsworth, Eric Bergeron, and Justin Towndale, all of whom sit on the Cornwall Regional Airport Commission, the governing body of the airport.

While I do agree with the termination of the agreement between the City of Cornwall and South Glengarry, I think the fact that the three members of Cornwall City Council who sit on the commission voted to keep the agreement alive speaks to the viability of the airport.

I think that Hollingsworth, Bergeron, and Towndale believe in the airport project, and as they sit on the commission, I think they have the best view of its potential.

The reason why I am still in favour of seeing the agreement come to an end, is that because I believe that from its ashes something better can be built. Terminating the agreement between Cornwall and South Glengarry was the only way to start new and move forward.

South Glengarry themselves have stated that the agreement needed to be re-worked. Here’s hoping that the City of Cornwall and the Township of South Glengarry really do come together and create a new agreement that all sides are happy with, and one that helps turn the airport into the revenue generating asset that we want it to be.

What’s your opinion readers? Send me a Letter to the Editor on this topic, or anything else that is on your mind, by email to nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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