Cornwall names Cornwall Airport important infrastructure

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By Nick Seebruch
Cornwall names Cornwall Airport important infrastructure
The Cornwall Regional Airport (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall City Council passed a motion at a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 26 to name Cornwall Regional Airport as an important public service infrastructure.

The discussion took place prior to a strategic planning session.

The motion was made by Councillor Eric Bergeron, who sits on the Airport Commission, the service’s governing body.

He cited a 2017 report made for the City by the Grant-Thronton accounting firm that called on the City to name the airport as an essential service.

Bergeron stated his dissatisfaction with the status quo at the Airport and made the motion to open the door to reform.

“I’ve been sitting on the commission for a little while, and something has to change,” Bergeron said. “I think we have governance issue. We own 50 per cent of the airport, but contribute 85 per cent of the cost. I would want to see that whatever percentage you own is your percentage of your vote.”

Cornwall owns the airport in partnership with the Township of South Glengarry. Cornwall CAO Maureen Adams explained that the airport has an annual budget of between $100,000-$120,000 and that in the past year, Cornwall paid $85,000 of that budget with South Glengarry paying roughly $10,000.

Councillor Dean Hollingsworth, who also sits on the Airport Commission, said that the future of Cornwall’s involvement with the airport boiled down to a simple question.

“For me, it’s very, the whole deal is somewhat messy. It doesn’t really satisfy the new reality of financing,” he said. “It is pretty difficult for administration to discuss a budget for the airport, when we as a council have not decided if we want to be in the airport business or not.”

There was skepticism from some councillors about the benefits of the airport.

“The airport has had about 30 years of potential and it hasn’t paid off,” said Councillor Claude McIntosh.

“Now it is just a recreational airport and I don’t think we should be supporting that,” Councillor Elaine MacDonald said, emphasizing her desire to see a fair deal.

Councillor Justin Towndale told Council that he believed that there was potential to renegotiate with South Glengarry.

“There is an indication from some members of the commission from South Glengarry that they would be open to discussing paying more,” he said.

As it stands now, the Township of South Glengarry does collect property tax from the airport, a benefit that Cornwall does not receive.

Cornwall Council was hesitant to name the airport an essential service, instead favouring naming it as “important”.

“I think it would be a slap in the face of the paramedics because we don’t even call them an essential service, and they should be,” said Councillor Carilyne Hébert.

There was also concern around calling the airport a public service, and whether or not the motion would commit the City to further responsibility with the airport.

Mayor Bernadette Clement said that she also wanted to see the project move forward.

“I too am uncomfortable with the language of the motion, but I do recognize that it will not commit us to further issues,” she said. “I’m going to vote to at least keep the conversation going at this point.”

The motion to name the Cornwall Regional Airport as an important service passed 8-3 with Councillors Glenn Grant, Maurice Dupelle and Carilyne Hébert voting against.

Now administration will return to council with proposals for the future budget of the airport and its governance.

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