And Midland makes three.
A comprehensive survey costing approximately $60,000 for the Huronia Airport, located at 20 Ed Connelly Drive, was approved last week by host municipality Tiny Township and later given the go-ahead by Penetanguishene committee of the whole. Both agreements were contingent on tri-partner Midland paying their 49.9% share of the joint partnership agreement.
At their recent regular meeting of council, Midland did just that.
However, it was a recorded vote of 7-2 with some discussion behind the mid-year Huronia Airport Commission (HAC) request that came outside regular budget talks.
Coun. Bill Gordon raised concerns, not in the items involved with the comprehensive survey by themselves, but for the timing of the request as a whole.
“My motion is going to be that we deny this funding at the moment because it’s the middle of the budget year; we’re only four-to-five months away from the beginning of 2023’s budget where this belongs as an ask of the municipality,” explained Gordon, adding, “I want there to be discussion right now, so I’m not going to move for a deferral and put that on the table right now.”
Under the move, the municipalities would pay the estimated $60,000 plus HST as follows: Tiny: $14,916 (22%), Penetanguishene $18,984 (28%) and Midland $33,900 (49.9%).
HAC municipal representative Coun. Cody Oschefski reiterated the praise that was received following a presentation by the Huronia Airport Task Force in April, adding that since the public meeting eight expressions of intent had been received by businesses looking at the airport.
“Four years ago when we got on council, this was just an airport,” said Oschefski. “‘Just an airport’ is a funny term’; it’s pretty incredible that we own an airport (we share) with two municipalities.”
Oschefski added that if council voted down the budget request to be funded through a one-time increase from the tax rate stabilization reserve, then it would be as if the next council were being handed ‘just an airport’ as well. Conversely, the $33,900 request would allow for aviation and non-aviation lands for employment and non-employment purposes.
“Today, in this meeting in the first five minutes, we approved a $74,000 allocation to ensure that we didn’t lose progress on our tennis court resurfacing and our basketball court resurfacing – for more than double the amount that we’re talking about to keep motion at the Huronia Airport. We didn’t even have a discussion about it,” reasoned Oschefski. “Surely we can find that same justification for the Huronia Airport with the amount of momentum that we have and the great things that are happening there.”
He concluded by saying that interested parties were watching the council meeting to see how the outcome would be decided.
“I will say this is the best $33,000 investment I’ve ever voted on in my eight years on council,” Oschefski affirmed.
The statement was well-received by others on council. Coun. Jim Downer said he would support the request although the timing wasn’t great, Carole McGinn said she couldn’t wait for the airport to soar, and Deputy Mayor Mike Ross reiterated that the town was part of a team and partnership.
Mayor Stewart Strathearn shared his support for the HAC request.
“There’s a lot of potential there,” said Strathearn, “and it seems rather strange to me that we can’t say where our property boundaries are and where these buildings are relative to the property boundaries and to each other. To me, that is a logical first step in implementing those portions of the airport that are readily developed, and those portions which aren’t.
“The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get these potential tenants in there and drive income – which, ever since I’ve been involved on council, we’ve been trying to get the airport to a point where they’re not coming and asking us for money. If this gets them there faster, I’m all for it,” Strathearn stated.
Coun. Beth Prost chose to vote against the request, siding with Gordon in the out-of-budget timing while sharing her sense of dread regarding denials made to many other requests during the full 2022 budget cuts.
As Midland and Tiny Township have approved their requests, the item will formally return to Penetanguishene later for council to approve their committee of the whole request.
The Huronia Airport Commission 2022 additional budget needs report and request is available in full in the council agenda on the town of Midland website.
Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be attended virtually through Zoom by contacting the clerk’s department of Midland town hall for a link to the meeting.
Council meetings can also be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca