Not cleared for takeoff: County not on board airport funding

In this August 2018, file photo, the entrance to the Cornwall Regional Airport in Summerstown, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SD&G – The United Counties of SD&G won’t be putting any county taxpayer dollars into the Cornwall Regional Airport in South Glengarry.

After nine months of research, an ad-hoc committee felt there would be “no possible return on investment” for county ratepayers.

The committee cited a lack of critical infrastructure, the existing governance structure and having multiple owners in its decision.

Part of its investigation included a fact-finding mission to a regional airport in Lachute, Que. where pilots landing there can then taxi to nearby homes and park their plane inside their home, CAO Tim Simpson told council this morning (Monday). “It’s quite interesting. The buildings look like hangers but they’re homes.”

County CAO Tim Simpson listens to councillors during a meeting on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. The county is not going to put any money into the Cornwall Regional Airport in Summerstown, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

County councillors agreed by resolution that the county would “not become directly involved with any aspect of the Cornwall Regional Airport” in Summerstown.

Frank Prevost is an ad-hoc committee member, county councillor and South Glengarry’s deputy mayor.

“I don’t see the counties being a fit in regards to the airport. Only in respect to where the airport should go in the future. I think the biggest benefit for anybody is going to be South Glengarry. I don’t even think a lot of benefit for the City of Cornwall at this point, if that’s the route the commission or the municipalities see the airport going,” Prevost said in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch.

“If we’re going to continue moving it forward, if we take an example the way Lachute moved their airport forward, then there would be no interest in the counties being on board whatsoever,” he said.

“The only one that’s going to benefit I think at the end of the day is going to be South Glengarry.”

It was a year ago a consultant recommended a major overhaul of the management of the airport in a joint session of Cornwall and South Glengarry councils.

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton LLP had recommended the entire airport commission be abolished and a new multi-municipality group should take its place.

With the county out of the mix, it doesn’t preclude the other six lower tier municipalities and the City of Cornwall from working out a multi-municipality ownership group.

Also a wrench in further airport development, the province changed the land designation around it to agricultural, effectively killing any development like expanding the runway to 5,000 feet. South Glengarry is appealing the changes. “If they don’t change the appeal we’re in trouble there, yes,” Prevost said.