Trail lands deal to buy airport

The City of Trail has landed a deal to purchase the Trail Regional Airport for $1.28 million from the regional district.

The City of Trail is ready for a solo flight after landing a deal to purchase the Trail Regional Airport for $1.28 million from the regional district.

Trail first approached the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) in January with an official request to purchase the 4,000-foot airstrip after the city and RDKB couldn’t reach a consensus about future expansion of the regional service.

“We see the airport as a key element of economic development,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs.

“It is very important to the future sustainability of Greater Trail,” he said. “Council believes the City of Trail can take the lead and facilitate improvements expeditiously as the sole owner and operator of the facility.”

The city has prepared a business plan to self-run the airport with details soon to be released that will answer the question if Trail taxpayers will fuel the cost of airport operations and future expansion projects.

“The business plan suggests the city can operate the airport without a property tax subsidy,” said David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer (CAO).

He explained that passengers are charged a $7 fee on a flight ticket, and by increasing this charge to $12, the airport can be run on a self-funding basis without property tax subsidies.

“The only service that the City of Trail will be taking on is the Trail Airport,” he continued.

“All other regional services such as fire and waste management will remain intact and will continue to be the responsibility of the regional district,”

The city currently contributes $43,688 toward the regional airport service and those funds can be re-directed toward capital reserves or capital improvements without placing a direct burden on Trail taxpayers, added Perehudoff.

Once the sale is complete, the regional district will no longer have the ability to tax for airport services, said John MacLean, regional district CAO.

“The direction the board of directors is that once the sale is concluded we will take the necessary steps to dissolve the service,” explained MacLean, adding, “the approval of the electorate is needed before establishing a new service.”

The city will buy the airport in two instalments in the new year, with the transition plan expected to be secured within six months.

Under the regional district’s ownership, the airport was run by volunteers, however as a first step in the initial phase of acquisition, the city will be hiring an airport manager.

“As the transition progresses, and until there is a new airport manager the volunteers’ working relationship remains the same,” said Don Nutini, a member of the volunteer staff at the airport. “I see great potential for the future, including a new terminal.”

Perehudoff added there are only a couple of issues for the RDKB to remedy before the transfer is complete.

“The deal is effectively done,” he explained. “The RDKB must remove underground tanks in the spring but beyond that the title transfer will proceed with the city to take ownership and commence recruitment for an airport manager asap.”

The airport is a primary access point for the BC Air Ambulance Service, and operates a twice daily scheduled service from Vancouver’s airport provided by Pacific Coastal Airlines.

“We’re very committed to continuing and strengthening our service to the region,” said Spencer Smith, vice president of Pacific Coastal Airlines. “My hopes is that the ownership change will be a positive thing for Pacific Coastal Airlines and the region.”