'A little concerning': Kirkland Lake airport mostly used for medivacs, report shows

KIRKLAND LAKE - A new report has some council members considering the future of the Kirkland Lake airport.

At the June 4 council meeting, the operational key performance indicators (O-KPIs) report for January to March 2024 was up for discussion.

The quarterly report breaks down airport usage, number of people enrolling in recreation programs, using the museum and more.

From January to March, it shows that the airport was used 52 times, 41 of which were for medivacs, and generated $18,700 for the town.

The town only started presenting O-KPI reports in the third quarter of 2023, so there is not a full year’s worth of statistics. In July, August and September of last year, the airport generated $28,200. The airport was used 59 times, 27 times for medivacs.

In the fourth quarter, the remaining months of 2023, the airport again generated $28,200. It was used 61 times, 42 times for medivacs.

Medical evacuations are often used for patients who require urgent care at a better-equipped facility.

At the June 4 meeting, Mayor Stacy Wight and several councillors expressed their concerns regarding the airport and its underutilization. Detailed options weren’t discussed for the future of the airport. However, because it’s used for medivacs, if it were to close, it was noted that the province could figure out other alternatives for the region.

In terms of the January to March data, Wight said it’s “a little concerning,” while one councillor said he believes a conversation needs to be had soon regarding the future of the airport.

Coun. Casey Owens said it's being underused.

“There are alternatives in the district to the medivacs. It's not necessarily ideal, but again, it's up to Ornge and the Ministry of Health to figure out how to work this,” said Owens.

“We don't even have a corporate entity that uses the airport anymore. And that was the rationale for keeping it a few years back when previous councils have had this discussion. So, I think this is something we need to look at very closely and soon.”

Kirkland Lake owns and operates its own airport. It opened in 1975 and is decertified and regulated by Transport Canada. It's located approximately eight kilometres from Kirkland Lake and consists of 1,163 metres of paved runway with a terminal and hangar.

Coun. Rick Owen said he’s been pushing for a review of the airport for quite a while.

“We do have a heliport right at the hospital. Yes, I know helicopters cannot operate under the same conditions, but if you're in Toronto and you call an ambulance, you're going to be a half hour in all likelihood before you get to the hospital. If you're in Kirkland Lake, you can either be sitting in emerg for a half hour, or you can be in an ambulance going to an airport in that half hour and then going to Sudbury,” he said.

“It will reduce the non-core service that's costing us money. There may be potential to sell that as a private club. When I grew up in Brampton, there was a private cloud, it's still there. So, I think we need to investigate this.”

Coun. Lad Shaba has mixed feelings.

He said the airport is serving a useful purpose for the community.

“It's just like having house insurance. You don't turn around and say well, I'm going to get rid of my house insurance because I haven't had a house fire for 20 years,” he said.

“I think that yes, we should look at it, but at the same time we have to proceed with caution because it serves a purpose that is bigger than just everyday use.”

The report also highlighted the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex brought in notable revenue in various areas. The pool area contributed approximately $22,800 in revenue, the fitness area generated $59,800 and the arena generated $65,200.

The complex received roughly 10,000 visits per month, with March break being the busiest period, attracting over 4,000 visits.

In the first quarter, the Museum of Northern History recorded a total of 560 visitors.

In terms of animal control, according to the report, effective management of the dog and cat tag program has been identified as a priority for 2024.

“The number of detained animals has increased, along with a significant number of warnings issued. The situation is being closely monitored,” the report reads.

Bylaw enforcement has been addressing ongoing community issues such as parking infractions and community standard non-compliance, according to the report.

“There has been an increase in resident requests and complaints. The focus for the second quarter will be on public education and maintaining a visible enforcement presence,” the report reads.

Between January and March, three parking warnings were issued, 38 parking tickets were issued and nine community standard warnings were issued.

The full report can be found here.

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative, TimminsToday.com