City managers have told council that repairs to Nelson’s airport runway could cost more than $1 million.
That’s if a complete re-paving job is needed.
If all it needs is localized repair of depressions in the runway surface, the cost would be about $161,000 – but that’s still an amount larger than the city’s airport reserve budget.
Staff presented these numbers at council’s Oct. 21 meeting.
The city, which owns and runs the airport, received an aviation consultant’s report in September that said the airport is poorly maintained and hazardous, with depressions in the paved runway surface and deficiencies in maintenance, signage, obstacle marking, data collection, training, and long-term planning.
“The cost is a bit of a shot in the dark at the moment,” Mayor John Dooley told the Star. “We need an analysis to see what’s necessary down there. It might be simple, it might be complicated.”
Council voted to undertake such an analysis.
They will commission a technical study that will follow an official federal government process for assessing and repairing airport pavement.
Council decided not to do any repair work until the assessment report is received and in the meantime the city will issue a written notification to pilots that advises them of the runway depressions.
After the assessment is complete, a full repair cost estimate will be presented to council to be considered for next year’s budget.
It is uncertain what repairing the runway surface will involve because there is a garbage dump under the airport. Closed down and buried in the 1970s, it contains everything from residential and industrial waste to old car bodies.
The Star asked Dooley whether the potential expense of the repairs might tip the balance on the question of whether the airport is needed at all.
“The options and alternatives are not very good at this stage for doing something other than what’s there,” he said, adding that the city’s ongoing difficulty in getting the neighbouring transfer station land rehabilitated is an indicator of the complexity of re-purposing land built on a garbage dump.
Asked if the airport could do its medical evacuation, wilderness access, and wildfire fighting functions with a helipad rather than a full runway, Dooley said “Yes a lot of it probably could, but at the same time, the way it appears at the moment, we are not looking at anything different on that site for the next five years. You can’t just abandon it, there is a need. But that is a bigger conversation for sure.”