- Hub staff

After years of discussion about the value to Owen Sound taxpayers of owning an airport, City staff recommended to Council on Monday that the airport land be declared surplus and that it be sold “to a private entity, noting the preference of City Council that the purchaser continue to operate the facility as an Airport.” The staff report goes on to say that if the sale is not successful, “the airport will cease operations no later than December 31, 2022”.  The full staff report is here.

Discussion of an airport for Owen Sound began in 1983 and it opened in 1993 with provincial and federal governments contributing both capital and operating funding.

That funding is no longer available, according to City Manager Tim Simmonds, and “The airport requires a significant contribution annually from the Owen Sound taxpayer to subsidize its operations.  This equates to approximately $235,000 after revenue is generated at the airport,” according to the report. The airport has been operating in a deficit for years, long before Covid, according to the City Manager, and he agrees that this could rise to $250,000 within a few years. In addition, a 2021 tender report indicates an expected $1.4 million in runway asphalt refurbishment must be done within the next two to five years.  Simmonds estimated that acting on suggestions made by groups such as the hangar owners group would require up to $100,000 in further investment by the City.

Simmonds noted that Council had specifically tasked him with closing the financial gap for this “special purpose piece of infrastructure physically located in another municipality, with all taxes passed through to the municipality of Meaford.” His conclusion was that the airport is “not a City business.”

In the 2016 service review, the majority of respondents who were Owen Sound residents, did not support the City retaining airport ownership.

At a 2018 all-candidates meeting, seven of the nine council members who were elected said “Yes”, they were in favour of the City owning and susidizing the airport – noting the subject was “complicated”. The late Councillor Peter Lemon noted that previous councils have tried both to make the airport self-sustaining, and to sell it.

The motion to proceed with the process of providing notice of the City's intention to declare the airport surplus was passed 5 to 2 in a recorded vote.

Simmonds said the process will include a valuation of the land and buildings, and public input, with a report to council this fall.

Image: Wil Ferguson, with permission




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