Cornwall councillor tries to hold back all airport funding; City won’t top up budget

In this August 2018, file photo, a plane gets ready for takeoff at the Cornwall Regional Airport near Summerstown, Ont. An error with the airport's budget opened the door for Cornwall Coun. Glen Grant to try and hold back all funding this year for the airport during a council meeting on Monday, June 14, 2021. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – A Cornwall councillor has made an unsuccessful attempt to hold back the city’s funding share for the Cornwall Regional Airport in Summerstown.

The move came from Coun. Glen Grant last night (Jun 14) as council faced the possibly of having to top up its $103,049 share to $130,526 due to the airport’s submission being “inadvertently missed” during the 2021 budget talks.

A city staff report says the airport commission approved the budget on Dec. 2, 2020 but it somehow didn’t make it to the budget with Cornwall councillors, running under the assumption the amount would be the same as 2020.

“I believe we keep the amount that we budgeted for until we decide on the future of our city to participate in an airport,” Grant said. “Even that amount ($103,049) should not be transferred until we made a decision on where we’re going with the airport.”

Grant was told by CAO Maureen Adams the airport has already gone through six months of operating expenses and the money would be “absolutely required,” plus it was already approved in the budget. Adams did note that the 1984 agreement is not crystal clear that the city is “obligated” to pay.

Grant later withdrew his motion and agreed to send the $103,039 to the airport commission. “That is the total amount, the 103 (thousand), no more.”

“I realize that in my enthusiasm to get into the discussion about the future of the airport, I didn’t realize our commitment to this,” Grant added.

Council did not agree with topping up the submission to $130,526.

The money would have gone toward $65,000 to hire an airport manager, which likely won’t go ahead given the time of year and the lack of money.

Coun. Elaine MacDonald put everyone on notice that she wouldn’t support any money for the airport next year if there’s no demonstrated benefit. “I think it hasn’t been demonstrated to us that the airport is in any way any benefit to us. In fact, we have been the major payer…without a demonstrated benefit to us.”

Two weeks ago, both Cornwall and South Glengarry councils received a presentation from a consultant on a robust plan for developing the Summerstown airport, which included the economic impact for both municipalities.

Under the current agreement, the City of Cornwall pays 85 per cent of operations of the airport while South Glengarry pays 15 per cent.