Council reviewed a report from the City’s Director of Engineering, Juan Rojas, which followed up a presentation given to Council in May 2017 that highlighted several options for the Airport, including: retaining the status quo, investing now for growth, leasing the airport to a private company, and closing the airport.
Council approved the recommendation to continue to support the Municipal Airport, under the current governance structure of the Airport Board, which includes members of Council and a third party management contract for day to day operations. The airport also has City staff support, with Council setting the Operating and Capital Budget on a yearly basis. This structure will be reviewed and reported back on in 2018.
Council’s decision to allocate funds to multi-year studies, to advance the future expansion of the airport, rests on the potential economic impact. Today, the airport directly supports 3 small businesses, and approximately 8 full and part-time jobs.
A 2006 study found it contributed approximately $5.5 million to the Kawartha Lakes economy, and supported an estimated 45 person years of employment.
Juan Rojas suggested the study is now over a decade old and the potential economic impact of the airport has grown. Rojas noted, Airport operations are very close to break even, with the investment being required on the capital maintenance and replacement of airport assets. Councillors shared, the airport is similar to infrastructure such as railroad tracks, and should be protected for a future use that may not be apparent today.
The review considered the cost of construction and expansion of the runways, taxiways and facilities, in order to attract new users to the Airport and new businesses to Kawartha Lakes. However, the return on investment in the range of $5-8 million over the next 5-10 years, was difficult to justify, given the absence of an ‘anchor’ tenant.
The review also considered closing the airport. The City’s Official Plan does not permit the lands for future Lindsay Urban Area expansion, and the land would be difficult to develop, as it is within a flood hazard. Further, any attempt to re-establish a Municipal Airport in the future would be a long and expensive Federal process.
Instead, Council chose the strategy to fund some pre-design work, to position the airport for future expansion, once a major tenant comes to fruition. The cost is spread over 3 years and in the range of $100,000-150,000. The studies would be dependent on potential tenants and/or user groups, and may focus on improvements to certain airport assets, such as the runway, taxi way and additional facilities.
A portion of the Study funds would be utilized for pre-design work that can be undertaken, such as: geotechnical investigation; concept plans; and functional servicing reports that would facilitate and plan for expansion. Some of this work is required to maintain the current level of service for the airport.
“We’re showing potential investors and tenants that the City is committed to our Airport. We’re also taking the necessary steps to be ready when a tenant commits, or when Federal or Provincial grant opportunities arise for ‘shovel ready’ projects,” commented Mayor Andy Letham.
The airport is located on 168 acres, on Hwy. 35 North in Lindsay. Amenities include: a primary paved runway; a secondary grass runway; two 10-unit T hangar buildings; a 4500 square foot hangar; a terminal building, with a flight school and restaurant, 40 outdoor aircraft parking spots, and a self-serve Avgas and Jet-A dispensing system. Airport assets total over $11 million.
Currently the Municipal Airport is used by various groups, including: a flight school; Ornge Air Ambulance, which took 68 flights to Toronto for emergency care in 2016; Ontario Provincial Police; Ministry of Natural Resources; the Canadian Military; and private aircraft. Tenants include a restaurant, flight school, and hanger tenants.
For a copy of the report, please visit the Core Service Review section on the City’s website, at this link https://www.kawarthalakes.ca/en/municipal-services/major-projects.aspx