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Feds wont change rules for airport

City officials make one last stab at receiving permission for additional work

City of Powell River officials will make one last attempt to convince the federal government to change its rules governing a major project at the airport.

A $1.6-million project to improve the apron and main taxiway in front of the airport terminal, with funds from the federal government’s Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP), includes removing all the existing pavement and gravel and digging one-half metre down to improve drainage. Originally, the work plan included a 13-day closure of the apron.

To avoid that, city staff developed a plan that reduced runway closures to two to three days, but it involves upgrading the taxiway and apron in front of Oceanview Helicopters and Westview Flying Club, called Taxiway Bravo. City staff would like to use part of the money from the ACAP grant for that project, but the federal government program only funds improvements that effect commercial carriers.

Mayor Dave Formosa and councillors Chris McNaughton and Debbie Dee have been lobbying John Weston, MP representing West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, and Transport Canada to allow improvements to Taxiway Bravo, but so far the federal government has not changed its rules.

Tor Birtig, manager of operational services, told city councillors at the April 19 committee-of-the-whole meeting that if the request to Transport Canada is denied, the city should consider funding the repair to minimize runway closures during construction. He recommended that council approve transferring $32,000 from the airport reserve to fund selective patching on Taxiway Bravo. “Our initial recommendation would have been to do a full reconstruct so that we get full life out of this,” Birtig said. “But as you can see, we only have $77,000 in the reserve and that cost would be over $100,000.”

Formosa said the situation was frustrating. “I think we give Weston another call and say, look, we are about to waste from our very limited airport reserve X amount of dollars. We’re not happy. It’s bureaucratic BS,” he said. “If this doesn’t get rectified, I want a letter sent from city council to the federal government…Why are they making us waste our money when we could use their money and do it all by rearranging the way this job is done?”

Dee said councillors explained several times to Transport Canada that the city would “get more bang for the buck. With the same amount of money, we could get more work done.”

Formosa said he would contact Weston that day to explain the situation to him again.

Meanwhile, the recommendation to use funds from the airport reserve was referred to the May 3 council meeting.