Airport sustainability project takes shape

Council will seek the expertise of McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd. and Patricia Maloney and Associates to undertake a sustainability plan in three parts at a cost of $42,000 plus taxes.

"We really need to have a plan for our airport," said Mayor Mike Bernier. "We're trying to encourage as many airlines and people to use our airport as possible, but we are struggling working with the larger airline companies on getting traffic into our airport. We're looking at every opportunity we can to make it as sustainable and efficient as possible."

He said it is not only an issue of ensuring a viable mode of transportation but also to make sure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.

The first phase of the project will have the proponents conduct background research, strategic planning sessions and public consultations, and come up with a summary document to present to council.

The second phase involves an assessment of current plans, facilities and land uses in and around the airport, the development of a Long Term Airport Use Development Plan and map that will define the airside, groundside and operational reserve areas key for any future development. City staff were able to work with the proponents to minimize the scope of phase two of the project by use of existing land use plans, at savings of $21,000 under the original bid.

The third phase of the project is the sustainability plan that will include a socio-economic summary of the airport; five, 10 and 20-year strategies and a work program; and recommendations for "soft" projects and strategies to monitor success.

The project is expected to be complete by Nov. 30. To pay for the project, city staff is proposing to apply for a $10,000 grant from the federal government, and/or by reallocating funds from the Land Sale Reserve ($25,400) and the Tax Sale Reserve ($16,600).

Bernier said city council will have some tough decisions to make whatever recommendations come forward, but they want to make sure those decisions are rooted in a solid business case.

"It's not a 'If we build it, will they come?' kind of an attitude, we don't want to be throwing good money after bad," he said. "We don't want to just go out there and tell the community we're considering spending millions of dollars to expand our runway, for example, if we have no business case to do that."

The lone dissenter on the vote was Councilor Marylin Belak, who said she preferred to have the project deferred until next year to avoid any issues with the timeline, budget and upcoming civil election.

Kimeal Cooke, president of the Dawson Creek Chamber of the Commerce, said having more efficient and expanded airline service in the city is definitely something the chamber supports.

"For businesses it's really important. For the local businesses and people that are self-employed, time is money," she said, adding the chamber has struck its own committee to look into the issue.

She said it is not just for the benefit of business owners, but for public sector employees and private citizens as well. She added any plan for future development will need the support of the community to succeed.

"People have not supported flying out of Dawson Creek, and it's time, people need to start," she said.

 

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