Sechelt council has allocated up to $50,000 to develop an airport business plan in the hope they can regain $1 million in Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) airport expansion funding that was lost late last year.
The funding was yanked from the District in early December when matching funds could not be produced to keep the grant.
“We learned of that pretty much just when we took office,” said Sechelt Mayor John Henderson. “There was $1 million from ICET, and to receive it we were obliged to have $3 for every $1 of their money. Unfortunately, nobody was able to find the $3 million.”
The District was granted the money by ICET in September 2010 with the stipulation it be used by December 2010. When it became apparent the funding couldn’t be matched in that time period, ICET gave the District until the end of December 2011, but still the funding could not be secured.
“So we received notification in early December that ICET was not extending the funding [again]. Having said that, the door appears to be open. We’re hopeful that it’s open for them to give it back to us if we can produce a really good business plan,” Henderson said.
The new business plan will take into account previous plans and studies on the airport and look at attracting business to the airport site at the top of Field Road in Wilson Creek.
“It’s perhaps a little different than previous studies in that we want a real business case to be produced,” Henderson said. “It’s one thing to know that extending the runway is going to cost x-million dollars, but it’s another to have a very focused plan of saying we’re going to attract avionics companies or aircraft maintenance services or flight schools or something like that. That’s the part that we’re really wanting this business plan to come back to us with.”
He said council is committed to “reinvigorating the airport expansion” effort that calls for repairs to the existing runway and taxiways and an extension of the runway to 1,200 metres, as well as proper lighting of the airstrip.
“It’s something that’s been on the radar for a number of years, and we as council are committed to really getting it going, I’d love to say getting it finished, but I don’t think it’s realistic to get all of the construction and everything else that we envision doing over the next few years completed in that time frame,” Henderson said.
The first step, he says, is to complete the business plan council approved at its April 4 regular council meeting.
“We have to have a business plan to convince people that it’s a good idea, and then we have to go and find the money,” he noted.