Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Plans to relocate Waterville airport up in the air: Michelin says no guarantee of expansion, but it wants ability to move quickly if plan goes ahead

The Canadian Press
Posted: Jun 12, 2013 5:07 PM AT
Last Updated: Jun 12, 2013 5:05 PM AT

The Nova Scotia government and a municipal council in the Annapolis Valley have decided to relocate a local airport in order to make way for a possible expansion of a Michelin Tire plant.

The decision regarding the Waterville municipal airport was made Tuesday following an update to Kings County council on a study exploring the potential expansion of the Michelin Tire plant in Waterville. The plant is located next to the airport.

The French tire giant has said there is no guarantee of an expansion, but it wants to be able to move quickly if it decides to do so.

In a news release, the Department of Economic Development said it would work with the municipality to look at the possibility of relocating the airport at Canadian Forces Base Greenwood.

The department said a letter would be sent to the base to request a feasibility study.

"A major Michelin expansion means new jobs and more opportunities for the Valley," Economic Development Minister Graham Steele said in a statement.

"We are providing the proper environment and necessary information so Michelin can explore the possibility."

County of Kings Warden Diana Brothers said the decision was made in the community's best interest.

"We want to make sure we are making decisions that will benefit our community both today and well into the future," said Brothers.

Michelin employs about 3,500 people in Nova Scotia, including 1,200 at its plant in Waterville.

Last May, Premier Darrell Dexter announced a study would look at relocating the airport to allow for expansion at Michelin.

The study by Halifax-based CBCL Ltd. said various options for the airport relocation were considered including the development of an "airpark" in association with the existing 14 Wing at Greenwood.

It said the option is estimated to cost about $6.7 million, subject to completed negotiations with the Department of National Defence.

The current airport has a 1,066-metre asphalt runway that mainly serves small aircraft.


Greenwood called good choice for airport 

 June 12, 2013 - 7:21pm By GORDON DELANEY Valley Bureau

CAMBRIDGE — Development of a civilian “air park” facility at 14 Wing Greenwood appears to be the preferred option for relocating the Waterville Municipal Airport to make way for a possible Michelin expansion.

The province will work with the municipality to further explore the location, sending a joint letter to the military base to request a feasibility study, said Graham Steele, the economic and rural development minister.

Michelin has said it will invest $346 million in its plants in North America this year. Although there is no promise to expand the Waterville tire plant, the feeling among municipal and provincial government officials is that the company will build if land is made available.

Michelin spokeswoman Deborah Carty said in an email Wednesday that there are no plans for expansion at the Waterville facility.

“However, the recommendations put forward in the government’s study allow us flexibility for the future, should the need arise.”

The Waterville airport is located by the northeastern side of the sprawling Michelin plant, boxing in the company.

The province commissioned Halifax consultants CBCL Ltd. to conduct a $100,000 study to determine options for moving the airport. The 50-page study was released Tuesday.

The report says the best option would be in the eastern end of the county because of the proximity to Halifax, and the airport operator could own the land and have control over operations. But “finding a large topographically flat area that is on low-quality agricultural land is a challenge.”

The advantages at Greenwood are the large runways capable of handling jets, existing air traffic control facilities, full emergency response capabilities, cleared land, and proximity to a 100-series highway and the villages of Greenwood and Kingston, with their services and amenities.

The disadvantages include the airport being closed during military emergencies or security procedures and the property being solely owned by the Defence Department, which could shut it down at any time.

Locating the airport at Greenwood would be subject to negotiations.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on the letter because we haven’t received it yet,” base spokesman Lt. Sylvain Rousseau said Wednesday. “Once (the Defence Department) receives the formal correspondence from the province and the municipality, the request will be evaluated at the appropriate level.”

Brian Goldie, spokesman for the Waterville Municipal Airport Co-operative, said his board will not stand in the way of progress and sees the move as an opportunity. But he stressed the airport should remain operational until a move is complete.

The uncertainty over a new location is hampering development at the present site. Construction of three hangars was cancelled since news of the airport being relocated.

The current airport occupies 38 hectares and has a 3,500 ft by 75 ft asphalt runway. The report recommends a new runway of 5,000 ft by 100.

It’s the second-busiest airport in the province, after Halifax’s Stanfield International. It houses 32 aircraft and employs 20 full- and part-time workers. It has a flying school, skydiving school and aircraft maintenance facility.

The report says the military’s primary concern is security and safety of defence operations while hosting a civilian airport. All personnel entering and leaving the base are vetted for security.

The random coming and going of people and civilian aircraft could pose a problem.

“However, the establishment of a business park-like compound capable of being isolated from the rest of the base by closing of gates was generally agreeable to the Wing,” the report says.

The Waterville airport is used by about 50 aviators, who are worried about who’s going to pick up the tab for moving.

Kings County Warden Diana Brothers is concerned about who’s going to pick up the tab.

“I want to know what the master plan is,” she said Wednesday.

“It’s important that we know the province is going to participate in some funding for this. Six or $7 million is a lot of money. Where would we ever come up with that?”


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