City seeks answers regarding WKEDD

"There are two regional airports and each is a business entity doing their best to grow and succeed."

The City of Trail doesn’t take lightly to interference with free enterprise – especially by a group of independents supported by dollars from Columbia Basin Trust (CBT).

After Trail turned down a “regional airport study” proposal by the West Kootenay Economic Development Dialogues (WKEDD) last month, the city is going one step further and asking for CBT to support a review of the group’s intent and purpose.

There are two regional airports and each is a business entity doing their best to grow and succeed, explained Trail Mayor Mike Martin.

“We don’t believe there can be any value in an independent group coming in to dictate what they need to do. It goes against the principles of free enterprise.”

WKEDD defines itself as representatives from Castlegar, Nelson, Rossland and Trail, Community Futures, chambers of commerce and other regional organizations to provide collaborative leadership in areas such as regional economic development, joint opportunities and solutions to common issues.

The airport study was dropped after Trail publicly stated that the city would not support the project, and since that time, Martin has met with Lawrence Chernoff, Castlegar’s mayor.

The meeting was facilitated by the trust’s Chief Executive Neil Muth, who, at Martin’s request, will organize a meeting of the four mayors to determine the intent behind the airport access study and the purpose of the group.

“This is a work in progress,” added Martin. “We are re-setting the clock on this group in a way.”

Expanding opportunities to the Trail airport, which the city purchased from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary one year ago, plays into past and current council’s long term vision for the area.

“The Trail airport is a vital establishment for medical and Medevac Air Ambulance travel as well as business and personal travel,” said Martin. “If we want Trail to continue to thrive, then the Trail Regional Airport needs to be viewed as a critical economic building block that will help maintain and improve the regional’s long-term sustainability.”

Martin’s comments were made following the proposal by the West Kootenay Economic Development group to develop a regional airport study that would include the Trail service.

The City of Trail does not support that study, confirmed David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer, adding that the city will be moving forward with the Trail Regional Airport Plan that will advance options to improve and enhance current operations, infrastructure and economic development.

“The city believes that as a community, we need to consider what level of service council wants to provide independent of the airport in Castlegar,” Martin explained.

He said the city remains committed to elevate the $1.6 million investment to take airport ownership.

“In order to ensure our regional customers get reliable air access at competitive rates, it is imperative the city continues with the necessary facility and operational improvements to run the Trail Regional Airport.”

The city’s planning study includes the construction of a new terminal building as well as identifying other opportunities for the land holdings at the airport.