Regional airports can be powerful regional economic drivers but they come at a cost and the issue with the Collingwood Regional Airport is do the benefits justify the costs for the Collingwood taxpayers.
This council decided that it was time to sell the asset.
Here is the press release dated Thursday August 2, 2018:
Collingwood, ON [2 August 2018] – The Town of Collingwood is pleased to announce that the sale of the Collingwood Regional Airport has been finalized.
The Town issued a request for offers for the purchase or lease of the Collingwood Regional Airport in May of this year, with three bids submitted.
The highest ranked proponent was Winterland Developments Ltd. with a purchase price of $4.1M. The proposed closing date for the sale is September 25, 2018.
Further details on the future of the airport will be addressed by Winterland Developments Ltd.
In short, there was not a good business case for Collingwood to continue to own and operate a regional airport.
Central to this question was the simple fact the airport is not located in Collingwood, it is in Clearview Township. That means that all property taxes and development fees generated by the airport go to Clearview and do not benefit Collingwood at all.
Over the last 10 years Collingwood Regional Airport has had annual operating deficits of approximately $200,000. The result is that Collingwood has spent approximately $2 million of taxpayers’ dollars funding an asset that is not in our municipality. During that same time period, Clearview Township has invested $25,000 annually in the airport for a total of $250,000 over ten years. It should be noted that the municipal taxes for the airport are approximately $80,000 annually, so Collingwood is a net payor to Clearview of approximately $55,000 annually when you factor in the taxes. During that same time period, Wasaga Beach has invested approximately $11,000 annually in the airport for a total of $110,000 over ten years. (I need to confirm those numbers).
Recent engineering reports and assessments of the airport have estimated that the airport requires approximately $8 million in capital investment to provide a safe and secure facility. One of the items includes upgrading and completing the boundary fencing to secure the airport property. The previous Council recognized the financial strain the airport was on our finances but voted against investing $100,000 to hire a consultant to prepare a business plan for the airport. So currently there is no long term business plan or strategy for the continued operation of the airport.
One fundamental question was should the Town of Collingwood invest millions of dollars of taxpayers hard earned dollars in operating and improving an asset in another municipality?
This Council has worked very hard to reduce the Town’s debt by $12 million from $39 million to approximately $27 million over the last 3 years and to keep the tax rate increases to approximately 1% per annum. We have adopted strict financial policies which prohibit incurring any new debt until we have reached aggressive benchmarks.
It is my opinion that we need to set our financial priorities and focus our energies and our tax dollars on making those priorities a reality.
Supporting strong entrepreneurial enterprises such as Winterland Developments Ltd can pay huge dividends to the community in terms of employment and the use of Town of Collingwood support initiatives such as our Business Development Centre.
The Waterfront Master Plan is one such priority and the residents of Collingwood have others they would like us to pursue like an arts and culture centre, a much needed facility that can be a strong economic driver in our municipality.
To make those priorities a reality, I do not believe it was not feasible to continue to operate the airport and make the much needed capital investments to build a strong regional airport with the hope of it becoming a strong economic driver for our region.
For that reason, I voted in favour of divestiture of the airport but only on the condition it continued to be operated as a regional airport. This option will allow Council to focus on the economic priorities of our taxpayers and it will allow the airport to become a strong regional economic driver, outcomes that benefit everyone.
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