County will not fund Airport's runway campaign
SEAN CHASE/DAILY OBSERVER Renfrew County Council is comprised of the mayors and reeves who lead the county's 17 member municipalities. The County of Renfrew was established in 1861.
The County of Renfrew will not be financially contributing to the repaving of the runways at the Pembroke and Area Airport.
During their monthly session on June 27, County councillors passed a motion, by a recorded vote of 181-13, not to commit $425,000 to the Project Runway initiative. The motion came as a recommendation from the finance and administration committee. The Pembroke and Area Airport Commission (PAAC) intends to repave 5,000 feet of aging runway with a campaign that solicites donations of $250 per foot.
The campaign’s ultimate goal is to raise $1.25-million to repave the runway. Thus far, $125,119 has been pledged by donors. Councillors determined that the airport's request violates the county's no-grants policy. However, Laurentian Hills Mayor John Reinwald felt his colleagues were making a mistake.
“I'm a little surprised at the lack of value people put on this,” said Reinwald. “I understand the rules and regulations, but I just hope if things don't work out at the Pembroke and Area Airport other families will find a plane when they need it.”
The airport had hoped each member of the county would contribute $25,000 per municipality payable over five years. That would equal $85,000 a year ($5,000 per municipality) with the total coming to $425,000. The City of Pembroke has already committed to $5,000 annually. Reinwald explained that the airport plays an important role for Garrison Petawawa, Ornge Air Ambulance, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
“I hope the one mile of runway will be a reality one day,” the mayor added.
Other councillors voiced their concern that there was no business or governance plan to accompany the PAAC requesr. The facility, located in the Town of Petawawa, is one of two major operational airports in the county. The Arnprior/South Renfrew Municipal Airport serves chiefly general aviation traffic, including private pilots, Orgne, Ontario Hydro, the OPP and the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Business plan or not, the Town of Arnprior would be upset if they got the funding,” said Arnprior Reeve Walter Stack. “The Arnprior Airport is more of a regional airport and this kind of money is really out of reach.”
Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet, whose town council has been highly critical of the PAAC over the past year, also voted against providing funding.
“I pay $22,000 toward the airport,” he said. “So Petawawa is subsidizing other municipalities in the County of Renfrew. That is not fair if we are also subsidizing fish stocking and other activities.”
Warning against changing the no-grants policy, Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards Mayor Janice Visneskie-Moore said she would be asking for funds for Valley Manor in Barry's Bay if there is a reversal.
“If we give any money, this will open the door to other requests,” she said. “Why would the Arnprior Airport not come forward asking for money as well?”