Stephenville airport gets $50K from town council, as wait continues for Dymond deal to close

Stephenville town council approved a $50,000 grant for the local airport at a meeting Thursday night. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)
Stephenville town council approved a $50,000 grant for the local airport at a meeting Thursday night. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)

The Stephenville airport is getting another $50,000 from taxpayers in the town, to help keep the operation running as the process to sell it drags on.

Ottawa businessman Carl Dymond announced plans to acquire the airport 16 months ago.

But the transaction still hasn't closed.

Officials have cited the fallout of a 2005 insolvency proceeding at the airport for holding things up. No public date has been disclosed for that process to end.

Lenny Tiller is one of two councillors who voted against the latest cash contribution to the airport on Thursday night.

He said there is still uncertainty about the status of the airport's sale, and when it might finally be done.

"If we had a definitive date tonight, I would vote yes," Tiller said.

"So tonight I'm going to respectfully vote no, and I do hope, and hope and pray like the rest of you, this comes to an end very soon."

Councillors who voted yes framed their support around the importance of the airport to the local health-care system.

"I feel like this is going to be the last bit of money and that's why I am so much for it," Coun. Myra White said.

"I know a lady that had a heart attack just around Christmas, and if the air ambulance hadn't been here, she would never have made it. So again, like her, I have to say yes, because it's the taxpayer's life that comes into play. And I know it's $50,000, but I look at a life, and what is a life worth?"

Coun. Tracy Boland also said she knows people who have had their lives saved by the air ambulance service.

"I'm going to vote for that reason. Because to me as a taxpayer and a councillor, you can't put a price on somebody's life," Boland said.

"So to me, air ambulance means everything to a lot of the taxpayers here in this town."

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

The message at Thursday's meeting was a marked shift from the last time the council publicly met.

On Dec. 20, Deputy Mayor Susan Fowlow said Dymond's acquisition of the airport was "expected to be finalized any day" and praised big anticipated benefits.

But sources told CBC News that the airport board had privately informed councillors a week earlier that more money would likely be required to keep the operation running, pending the closure of the deal. That turned out to be correct.

Dymond has said he plans to spend $500 million on infrastructure investments in the Stephenville area this coming year, with work expected to begin in April, as part of an array of initiatives that will create thousands of jobs.

A series of CBC reports have raised questions about Dymond's financial plans and corporate capabilities.

Dymond has defended those plans, saying investors are in the wings and ready to make his Stephenville dreams a reality. He has declined to name those investors.

His vision includes a manufacturing facility for giant futuristic cargo drones and the return of scheduled passenger service to the currently moribund airport.

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