Council votes to launch Owen Sound Airport sale process

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The days when Owen Sound had a municipal airport could be numbered.

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City council voted 5-2 Monday to initiate a process to declare the surplus and sell the Billy Bishop Owen Sound Regional Airport, with a preference that the buyer continue to operate the facility as a airport.

They also set a deadline – December 31, 2022 – to close the sale or stop operating the airport if no buyer is found by then.

Councilors who supported the motion cited the annual net cost of $ 235,000 to operate the airport and the fact that the facility is not accessible or used by most residents of Owen Sound as reasons for their vote. .

“I think Owen Sound taxpayers need to stop subsidizing a facility they earn so little from,” Coun said. Richard Thomas, who moved the motion.

“The dream of economic development that has accompanied the airport for 29 years simply never materialized, in my opinion.

Com. Carol Merton – who, along with Coun. Marion Koepke opposed the motion – said that while city staff think the airport should no longer be a municipal enterprise, they think operating the facility is a “human enterprise”.

The council, she said, received letters from two doctors at Gray Bruce Health Services who wrote about the role of the airport in ensuring that trauma patients can be transferred as quickly as possible to a more appropriate hospital. when an ORNGE helicopter is unable to land at Owen Sound. hospital. Air ambulances can also use the airport for medical evacuations, while Gift of Life organ donation teams also use the airport when needed, the doctors wrote.

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Merton said the city had also not addressed the role of the airport in emergency management planning.

“I would like to ask the question: is the airport nice to have or should we have it? Sometimes it’s more than dollars and cents and it’s about human lives, ”she said.

Council’s motion is to provide notice and invite the public to comment on the city’s intention to declare a surplus and dispose of the airport by direct sale or real estate listing.

City manager Tim Simmonds said the vote doesn’t mean the airport will go on sale right away.

“Between now and this fall, staff will be undertaking a property assessment that will take into account the entire site and the buildings on it. Notice of all public comments will be sent out by the Clerk’s Office to solicit public comment and all comments will be consolidated and presented to Council in a staff report this fall. This report will ask the council to take the next step in selling the airport, by creating a bylaw, or maybe going in a different direction, ”he said before the vote. .

The motion also directs staff to complete the sale of the airport no later than December 31, 2022 and to cease operations of the airport on that date if the sale of the property is not successful.

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About Ethel Nester

Ethel Nester

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