The Trail Regional Airport expansion will not take flight any time soon.
The East End Services (EES) Committee held an open meeting at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) office on Nov. 22, to address a letter that was issued to its participants from the City of Trail in August.
A service review was requested in the letter from Trail council, regarding the timeliness, interest and participation of the airport’s regional stakeholders, including Rossland, Trail, Montrose, Fruitvale and regional district areas A and B, in terms of future service enhancements to the facility.
The City of Trail finds the lack of congruence and the apparent indifference to the service from several participants an ongoing issue and concern in the context of advancing plans for the regional airport, stated the letter.
“In my opinion, there was no need for a service review, the majority of the members were happy with the service and how it was proceeding,” said Ali Grieve, Area A, director.
The response by the EES committee to Robert Cacchioni, participant from Trail council, was brief and swift in a 15-minute meeting that was described as ‘confrontational’ by Cacchioni.
“All other participants at the meeting agreed that they wish to maintain the airport with its present services without expanding it,” said Larry Gray, chair of RDKB board of directors.
When the question went around the table to ask if there was a desire for any of the participants to remove themselves from the service, “the answer was ‘no,’ and that was consistent around the table,” said Gray.
The second reason for the meeting was to address a statement in the letter that, “participants contributing the majority of costs are now being outvoted by the minority financial contributors.”
Cacchioni, a Trail councillor, expanded on the comment.
“The concern is that, the way the voting structure is set in the EES, particularly the airport, is that the individual communities or areas which represent the minority position, in fact control the vote,” he said.
“It is interesting to note, that the motion to expand the airport was defeated four votes to three, but the four who voted against it, actually represent the minority contribution.”
Gray strongly refuted that statement.
“Now, that flies in the face of the whole reason for regional districts, people with the most money do not get the most votes,” explained Gray.
“Regional districts are established by the government to give rural areas a voice.”
In 2010, the RDKB commissioned a study of the costs to expanding the Trail airport and what could be done to develop it.
As any expansion was going to cost millions of dollars, an economic impact study was the next step taken to study the economic benefits to the community.
The results of the economic assessment stated that future decisions of expansion at the airport should be balanced with the minimal economic impact the airport holds.
“Trail remains committed to expansion of the airport and the master plan to move ahead with the development,” said Cacchioni.
“Now we have to explore other options to move the project forward.”
The EES committee is a sub committee of elected officials in the RDKB who deal with issues pertinent to the east end, which includes the business of the municipal airport, which is owned by the RDKB.
The volunteer-run airport has been operating since 2005 as a commercial airport.