A test of support for the Trail Regional Airport is expected to come later this month when the regional district board begins deliberation on a request for more than double its historical budget for 2012.
The East End Services Committee (EESC) is looking for a 240 per cent increase in order to gain some full time staff at what has largely been a volunteer operation, as well as complete paving for a stopway beside the runway.
Total increases within the draft 2012 Trail Regional Airport budget are projected to see a property tax increase of 140 per cent ($126,271).
Arising out of the last Airport Master Plan meeting in early January, the EESC is recommending a budget that will support one full time attendant for the airport, as well as another part time employee.
The increase in staffing is based on an eight-hour day, seven days per week at a base rate of $21.53 per hour. As well, paving the current gravel stopways would require a $200,000 hit.
With economic development a regional district priority, development of the airport will help with development of the economy for the whole region, said Area A director Ali Grieve.
“That industrial park is just a perfect location for future development, and that would include people having access in and out of here by air,” she said. “So we’re willing to invest some money in that airport which, as far as we are concerned, is an investment in economic development.”
But the move did not sit well with EESC chair Kathy Wallace, who felt the two costs could have been spread out over several years instead of all at once.
“It’s a considerable increase and I think that we could do it perhaps more realistically over the long term but that was the decision of the committee to go for it right now,” she said last week.
She was not completely supportive of the decision to spend the money since the future of the airport was still in question.
“It is a difficult balance. Exactly how much to invest in it when we have another airport sitting in Castlegar?” she said. “When you have two airports so close together I would like to see more of a partnership working between the two of them.”
The airport is an east end service cost with regional district areas A and B, Montrose, Warfield, Fruitvale, Rossland and Trail drawing in. After the 2012 budget, the regional district will look for external sources of funding to improve the airport and for future development.
“But if we are not willing to invest in it ourselves, how can we ask external parties to consider (funding)?” said Grieve.
Other costs for maintaining the airport service include $10,000 for an economic impact assessment development that was not previously budgeted for. Around $7,500 is earmarked for completion of a marketing strategy, while $10,000 would go to a paving condition survey.
The draft budget still has to be approved at the board level this month, with endorsement first coming from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s finance committee.
In late 2011, the regional district completed a master plan identifying potential “move forward” strategies for the regional airport.
Heading into 2012, the RDKB initiated special airport master plan meetings with relevant stakeholders to determine what potential and future options should be advanced from the plan, and how they would affect the current service budget.
The budget also anticipates a conservative revenue increase of 40 per cent ($33,240) as a result of increased yearly commercial airline passenger totals.