The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District voted to tender out engineering services for the expansion of the regional airport.
The ACRD has been turned down in all of its grant applications, leaving them needing to borrow all $6 million. They received voter approval to borrow up to $6 million to extend the runway via an alternate approval process this summer.
Not all directors were convinced; Ucluelet and Sproat Lake voted against.
“The question in my mind is do we go and try to find money with the new federal government and potentially talking to the province? Is it worth it to postpone the project?” Cherry Creek director Lucas Banton asked prior to the vote.
Port Alberni director Jack McLeman said it wasn’t worth waiting.
“We’ve been turned down by three [grant bodies], we’ve had an alternate approval process we’ve gone through, we have investors wanting to stay or leave or come and not come to the airport. If we wait another year, we might as well say we don’t want the airport.”
Beaver Creek director John McNabb said that at $14 of taxes per $200,000 home, the decision was easy.
“Last time I bought a case of beer, it was $39. I can live without a case of beer. We need to do everything we can to encourage grants to come forward.”
City of Port Alberni economic development manager Pat Deakin said that Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Shirley Bond had set her office to helping Port Alberni secure funding for the airport expansion, following a meeting the prior week.
“Their director of economic development for the transportation infrastructure program is really pushing to get us support for the project on a variety of fronts,” Deakin said.
“They recognize with the memorandum of understanding that the Coulson Group signed with Airbus back in November , there is huge opportunity and potential for the aerospace industry in the Valley to move forward.”
The province announced $8 million in funding this year to support infrastructure improvements at B.C. airports this year as part of the 2016 B.C. Air Access Program.
Access to an enhanced airport could also bolster other economic development in the region, Deakin added.
“It is important to continue to move.”