Is it time for the City of Quesnel to decertify the airport and stop subsidizing it for passenger service ?
A decision on that could be coming soon as the topic was punted to the Executive Committee following an open discussion on it at the last Council meeting.
It sounds like Mayor Bob Simpson is leaning towards a change…
“This is an opportunity for us to really make sure that we just don’t have an open sore over the airport that we just keep throwing money at and put a band aid on, this is an opportunity for us to rethink this whole function.”
Cenral Mountain Air has suspended service to Quesnel due to COVID and hasn’t indicated when or even if it plans to come back.
Mayor Simpson says the situation has been getting worse at the airport over the last couple of years citing landing issues in the spring and fall due to fog, and people getting stranded because of that, transportation issues for people getting to and from the airport, and connection problems once Central Mountain Air was switched to the south terminal in Vancouver.
The city is using COVID restart money right now to offset a 30 to 40 thousand dollar budget shortfall at the airport.
Simpson feels they need to decide how long that can continue…
“We’re using the COVID money right now to backstop this. I would suggest that we’re doing a one time backstop, and beyond that we take a hard look and beyond that take a hard look at whether or not we downgrade this airport. What is the reasonable time frame to look at maintaining certification so that we leave our options open ? What’s the reasonable time frame we should be looking at tax subsidies continuing to go on to maintain an airport for passenger services that doesn’t have passenger service or may not in the future.”
Simpson says it may be time to develop a new operating model for the airport, perhaps an an aerodrome, that would be more financially sustainable.
The question of whether or not the Cariboo Regional District’s contribution to the airport would be impacted by a change was also raised at the meeting.
For his part, Simpson says “no”…
“The agreement we have with the CRD. In my estimation, the referendum said that the CRD residents were willing to pay toward the operating cost of the airport, and it’s that simple. So as long we’ve got operating costs, we don’t shut down the airport, then their contribution is still going to a “good cause.”
Council’s Executive Committee will now take a closer look at the issue before bringing a report back to Council on some of the options that are available, should the City decided to decertify the airport and not have commercial passenger service.