City council votes to sever Cornwall Regional Airport deal

In this August 2018, file photo, several planes are tied down outside the hangers at the Cornwall Regional Airport. Cornwall city council has voted 7-3 to sever its airport funding partnership with South Glengarry after 37 years. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL/SUMMERSTOWN – After 37 years, the City of Cornwall is saying enough with its partnership in the Cornwall Regional Airport.

City council voted 8-3 last night (Tuesday) to put South Glengarry on notice that it wants to terminate its agreement.

Coun. Elaine MacDonald noted this would be the “step…in a lengthy negotiation” because the 1984 agreement doesn’t have a formal exit clause. Coun. Justin Towndale suggested it would take three years.

Those who voted against it felt that negotiating a better agreement was a better first step and felt the move was premature.

Under the current agreement, the City of Cornwall pays 85 per cent while the Township of South Glengarry pays 15 per cent. There had been a cap of $10,000 on South Glengarry’s share until it was removed by the township as a sign of good faith in trying to build a long term plan.

Coun. Dean Hollingsworth, who is also the Cornwall Regional Airport Commission chairman, agrees that it’s not a good agreement for the city. “But I think this motion might be a tiny bit premature in that it might be worth our while to see what our colleagues would do in terms of a negotiation or new arrangement.”

While agreeing the agreement is “flawed,” Coun. Towndale believed the move was premature and that the airport has improved in the past seven years with more fuel sales and more commercial and government business.

But many on council believe the Summerstown airport is not giving local ratepayers any benefit and the current agreement has been unfair for years with no real impetus from South Glengarry to change it.

Coun. Elaine MacDonald says a consultant’s report four years ago noted a regional benefit to the airport but “nobody stepped up looking for an opportunity to invest in the project” except Cornwall, which has spent about $1 million. “It’s been of no significant benefit to the citizens of Cornwall.”

Coun. Syd Gardiner says Cornwall taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for an airport used by “fun-loving people.”

“It’s about time we stood up and said, ‘We’re not going to fund this airport anymore.’ We’ve put enough money into it and never received any real benefit from our participation,” Coun. Denis Carr added.

Coun. Todd Bennett is “nervous” about the millions of dollars forecast to improve the airport. “I can’t ask the residents of the City of Cornwall to pay 85 per cent of millions of dollars for an airport we see very little economic benefit for (sic).”

The councillors who voted against killing the agreement were Dean Hollingsworth, Justin Towndale and Eric Bergeron.