By ROY WOOD
Advocates for the Osoyoos Airport expansion would be happy if the future of the facility became an issue in next month’s civic election, but insist the timing of Tuesday’s presentation to town council was not driven by political strategy.
Osoyoos Airport Development Society (OADS) president Glen Harris appeared before a council committee to update members on the society’s activities as it continues to apply for government grants and to plan for upgrading of the airport.
Society member Rob Rausch, an Air Canada pilot and local businessman, said in an interview following the presentation that “the town has skin in the game … (and the future of the airport) will inevitably be discussed by candidates.”
However, he said, the timing of today’s presentation is based on the unfolding of events and wasn’t driven by consideration of the October 20 council election.
Harris told council the purposes of the OADS visit were to formally present: a final strategic plan document; a letter from the airport steering committee regarding airport governance; a report about a recently received $80,000 grant; and a request to study consolidation of three crown lots.
The strategic plan was presented to council in draft form in July. It was created by consulting firm InterVISTAS and paid for through a $25,000 Community Giving grant from the Osoyoos Credit Union.
The plan, recently endorsed by the steering committee and approved by the society, lays out short-and long-term strategies for expanding and transforming the current simple, rural airstrip into a modern, safety-equipped airport capable of serving progressively larger aircraft.
The letter from the steering committee — which includes members from the town, the regional district, the Osoyoos Indian Band, Destination Osoyoos and OADS – recommends the town endorse a governance model that would see the airport run by a society with “skill-based members from the community.” The town would be represented on the committee by a non-voting liaison selected from among councillors.
The strategic plan points out that the interests of the town would be protected through the lease agreement between the town, which owns the land, and the society.
Harris informed council of the progress with fencing the property and site clean-up funded primarily by a recent $60,000 Air Access grant from the province. He said the work is proceeding and will be done by the end of September.
The final request of council was to have staff look into the consolidation of three adjacent crown-owned lots to allow them to become part of the airport lands and thereby permit closure of a roadway needed for the runway expansion.
The society members at today’s presentation — Harris, Rausch and Destination Osoyoos executive director Kelly Glazer — were all happy with the reception they have received from council.
Rausch said the current council has proven “better than the previous mayor and council,” which had voted to study repurposing the airport lands for industrial uses, thereby eliminating any chance of having a viable airport in the town. Rausch described the current council as apparently “willing to move forward.”
He said council’s response to OADS has been respectful and has become “more and more positive” as the society has progressed over the past two years.
The council committee responded cautiously today, voting to receive the presentation “as information” and to have staff study the proposals for governance options and amalgamation of the three crown lots.