Cornwall administration recommends pulling out of airport agreement

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By Nick Seebruch
Cornwall administration recommends pulling out of airport agreement
The Cornwall Regional Airport (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – City of Cornwall administration in a report to City Council is recommending that the City terminate its agreement with the Township of South Glengarry to support the Cornwall Regional Airport.

Since 1984, the City of Cornwall and the Township of South Glengarry, and South Glengarry’s predecessor the Township of Charlottenburgh, have jointly supported and operated the Cornwall Regional Airport.

In May of this past year, members of Cornwall City Council expressed their interest in renegotiating the Airport agreement, which sees the City pay 85 per cent of the Airport’s operating and capital expenses.

During a meeting on May 31, consulting firm Explorer Solutions presented a new business plan for the Airport to both South Glengarry and Cornwall councils which recommended more investment.

“They’re paying 15 per cent and are collecting that taxes which means they are paying less than 15 per cent and I think that needs to be fixed before we talk about investing in the airport,” said Cornwall Councillor Claude McIntosh of the agreement with South Glengarry at the time.

RELATED: Cornwall Council wants to re-negotiate airport agreement before investing

City of Cornwall CAO Maureen Adams prepared this latest report which will be presented to Cornwall Council tonight, Tuesday, Oct. 12. The reasoning for ending the agreement that is outlined in this report is that the Airport is mostly used for recreational flying with very little commercial traffic and that the agreement has produced little benefit to Cornwall taxpayers, an assertion that is being refuted by the Airport’s former owners, the Small family.

The Smalls purchased the Airport in 1979 from Lillian Toczyski, who’s husband, Steve, built the airport. They then sold the Airport to the Township of Charlottenburgh for $1 in 1983, who then entered into the shared management agreement with the City of Cornwall.

Gordon Small, the President of Cornwall Aviation in 1979 argued in a letter to Council and the public that the Airport remains an important asset in the region.

“Despite the current pandemic the Cornwall Regional Airport maintains a vivid and vital footprint in the local economy. Airports supply a corridor of access to enhanced levels of health services for local citizens, with flights to distant airports,” Small’s letter reads. “To support the fragile supply chain for example, when the pandemic began, PPE was flown into the airport, picked up by Herb`s towing, and delivered to the Cornwall Community Hospital. Air Ambulance flights are ongoing and organ transplant recipients who wear pagers for notification, have been picked up by medivac aircraft, and flown to Ontario hospitals such as Toronto and London to undergo their procedures. Doctors also fly into the airport to harvest organs for transplant, as the window of opportunity can be as little as six hours to maintain viability of the organ. Similarly, during inclement or very hot weather Air Ambulance helicopters use the airport instead of the hospital helipad for flight safety reasons.”

Small also argues that the airport is used by companies to ferry employees to distant airports, and is used by companies like Enbridge and Trans Northern Pipeline for survey purposes, as does the St. Lawrence River Institute.

Additionally, Small explained that the OPP and RCMP use the Airport for their operations as well, including prisoner transportation.

All of this is on top of the educational aspect of the airport, where pilots can locally receive training.

Council will vote Tuesday night whether or not to issue a notice of intention to terminate the airport agreement.

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