No grants for airport expansion

Regional district will have to borrow the $6M amount or look for new grants.

No grants have come through for the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District’s runway expansion, according to CAO Russell Dyson.

The ACRD had originally hoped to cover two-thirds of the cost of the runway expansion with grant funding but with the news that their application to the Strategic Priorities Fund was unsuccessful, they board of directors will have to either borrow $6M or try for new grant funding.

According to Port Alberni director Jack McLeman, the ‘yes’ vote the ACRD received during the alternate approval process is a strong mandate to proceed with our without grant funding.

“I think we should go ahead, we had the vote and not a lot of people came out for the ‘no’ side,” said McLeman. When the AAP was held this summer, only 1.5 percent of valid electors within the Alberni Valley voted against ACRD’s plan to borrow up to $6 million to fund the Alberni Valley Regional Airport expansion.

Speaking back in August, Dyson said that the two bylaws that the board adopted will allow them to  “borrow up to $6M and requisition up to $466,250 or $0.15 per $1000 of taxable value (whichever is greater) for airport related services.”

However, they do not have to borrow the maximum amount or any amount whatsoever, Dyson said.

McLeman said he’s unsurprised that the ACRD didn’t get money for the AVRA expansion, citing the $1.27 million the Long Beach Airport in Tofino received this summer.

“The feds take that as ‘we got ours,'” said McLeman.

The airport expansion includes a longer and wider runway (approximately 1000 feet of additional length and 25 feet of additional width), medium-intensity lighting and GPS service. The GPS service was not reliant on grant funding and is factored into the ACRD’s capital budget. The upgrades would allow for bigger planes to land at the airport, even with the Alberni Valley’s often foggy weather—including Coulson’s C130s and C295s. Commercial, scheduled flights would also be an option down the road.

McLeman said that it’s important to go ahead to keep securing further investment.

“People want to invest money in this town and everyone I’ve talked to said it’s a no-brainer. It generates economic development.”

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