Terminal design and apron upgrades on hold as council waits for updated master plan

The Prince Albert Municipal Airport. -- Herald file photo.

Plans to start designing a new terminal for the Prince Albert airport will have to wait for another year.

Council declined to fund the project, choosing instead to forward it to the newly created Airport Advisory Committee for further consideration. The City saved $100,000 by not funding the project in 2020, but financial considerations weren’t the reason for the decision.

“I know it’s only a conceptual design and we’re going to get a new terminal sometime, but there is no way we’re going to have a new terminal in the next four or five years, that’s for sure,” said Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody, who introduced a motion to remove the item from the budget. “I think we don’t need a conceptual design at this particular time, … plus we should let the committee have a bit of a peek at it as well.

“Who knows, when this strategic plan comes in, maybe we’ll have a round one or a square one or a high one or who knows, and then the conceptual design wouldn’t have a damn thing to do with it. I think we’ve got the cart before the horse here.”

Mayor Dionne echoed those sentiments after the meeting. He said the current terminal, which can hold 88 people at peak levels, meets their current passenger needs. He doesn’t see them building a new one for at least another three or four years anyway.

“We want to look at it as a whole picture of economic development,” Dionne explained.

The new terminal design was one of four items removed from the airport budget during Monday’s budget meetings. Of the remaining three, the biggest by far was a $3.5 million plan to rehabilitate and expand a little-used airport apron.

According to budget documents, the area has deteriorated so much that aircraft can lo long use it. It’s also too narrow for two-way traffic. The $3.5 million upgrade would turn the area into leasable parking space for commercial aircraft.

City administration has already applied for a $3 million grant from the federal government’s Canada Infrastructure Program for Rural and Northern Communities, but hasn’t heard back. The remaining money would come from a $500,000 loan.

Dionne said he’d support such a project if they received external funding for it, but not if the City has to do it themselves.

Coun. Evert Botha brought forward the motion to remove the upgrades from the budget. He said council should wait for the updated airport master plan, which will show if the city needs more hanger space.

Administration expects Prince Albert’s airport to bring in $934,710 in revenue, with operating expenses of $960,680. In 2006, city council began covering 30 per cent of operating expenses from the General Fund. This year that works out to $266,840. Council established a Passenger Facility Fee (PFF) on July 15, 2010. The PPF will increase from $17.50 to $20 on July 15, 2020.