City council supports airport transfer

Niagara District Airport Commission chair Ruedi Suter says jets like these at the airport bode well for a self-sustainable future.Niagara District Airport Commission chair Ruedi Suter says jets like these at the airport bode well for a self-sustainable future.

St. Catharines council has thrown its support behind a proposal to transfer operations of Niagara District Airport to Niagara Region.

Airport commissioners are advocating the move as a way to bolster a business case to have it expand into the international flight business.

The City of Niagara Falls and Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake are also being asked to pass similar resolutions.

An airport feasibility study conducted in 2013 found the biggest surge in future traffic could be trans-border flights from New York, Chicago, Boston and Washington.

St. Catharines city council agreed the existing joint municipal service board operating the airport commission should be dissolved and operations transfered to the Region.

The motion, approved unanimously, adds if the other two municipalities pass similar resolutions and the Region approves taking over operations, city staff be directed to work with their two counterparts to put together necessary agreements.

Coun. Mike Britton, who presented Monday’s motion at St. Catharines council, noted the current funding model doesn’t allow for needed infrastructure renewal for future development at the Niagara-on-the-Lake site.

The “expansion of the airport will result in economic benefits throughout the region,” said Britton, who is a member on the commission.

Britton, the only councillor to speak to the motion Monday, described it as a “great opportunity for our community.”

“There’s so much potential that the airport has to improve our quality of life here,” he said.

“It’s a win for our lower-tier municipality because in simple terms it takes the operating costs off our operating budget,” he told councillors.

“It’s a win for the upper-tier municipalities, because with the proper investment (it) could actually become cash-flow positive.”

The airport currently has a $300,000 operational budget granted by the three municipalities based on per capita.

Britton said a move to Region control could also boost economic development throughout Niagara.

“It’s a rare opportunity where we could actually have a better service for less money,” he added.

On Monday, Niagara-on-the-Lake council also voted to approve the transfer proposal. Niagara Falls will address the motion Tuesday.

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Source: St. Catharines Standard