Revenue generated by the Trail Municipal Airport has increased 44.1 per cent from last year even as the future of funding for expansion of the facility remains in question.
A report on the summary of current airport operations by manager Bryan Teasdale to the East End Services committee revealed an increase of almost $53,000 in revenue as of the end of September, up to $131,985 for the year.
Teasdale said the revenue was derived from a 35.4 per cent increase in ridership through the airport’s lone commercial carrier, Pacific Coastal.
That money will factor into the status quo budget that was recently requested for the service as management with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary awaits what, if any, directives will come forth in wake of the recently aborted airport facilities review.
“We did a status quo budget as a placeholder to maintain service levels and the tax requisition, but that could change based on the results of the service review,” Teasdale said.
On Nov. 22 the stakeholders in the service— including Rossland, Trail, Montrose, Fruitvale and regional district areas A and B—voted unanimously to not remove anyone from the service, shutting down the process of a service review.
A service review was requested in the letter from Trail council soliciting the desire of the participants to remain in the service, as well as gauging support for future service enhancements to the facility.
However, Trail councillor Robert Cacchioni—who represents Trail on the committee—said, although no one expressed any interest in leaving the service, the question remained at what level of investment were they willing to stay at.
“Yes, there is support for the airport, but it is at a very minimal rate,” he said. “And it does not appear from the discussion at the meeting we have a very committed group to move ahead with airport expansion.”
But the committee will eventually have to make some hard decisions on expansion at the airport. Teasdale said the increase in ridership is coming at some cost as it is putting stress on the facility’s infrastructure.
There is a growing need for a new terminal building, he said, and either runway paving or expansion and paving of the existing stopways for aircraft.
“Our main concern is for the terminal building, and just how busy it is and how packed it is in the winter time,” Teasdale said.
The Trail Flying Club is also seeing some “pressures” on their end having to maintain the building.
Cacchioni said the city is still in favour of moving ahead with the airport in terms of its master plan and expanding, disregarding the advice of the Airport Economic Assessment Report handed down in October.
“(The report) recommends a more cautious approach and we don’t believe that to be true,” he said. “We support the airport master plan that was developed.”
RDKB chief administrative officer John MacLean said the economic assessment report did not factor into the decision by the committee members on Nov. 22. The respective members did not want to withdraw from any part of the service nor did they want to make any changes.
“So it’s full speed ahead but it’s full speed ahead with the participants taking a look at the two reports we have: the master plan and the economic impact analysis,” he said.
The committee will now have to make some determination as to where they want to invest funds and at what level. However, the results of the economic assessment stated future decisions of expansion at the airport should be balanced with the minimal economic impact the airport holds.
For Cacchioni, the next battleground will be over the runway.
“We’re just hoping the expanded scope of paving that was turned down earlier we will be able to go ahead with … when (the Department of Highways) does Highway 22 in April.”