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SV airport ‘bought and paid for’.

Carl Dymond confirms transfer of funds to SAC.

Carl Dymond – File photo

By Rene J. Roy Editor-in-Chief

During the Thursday, May 18 meeting of council, Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose announced that Dymond Group of Companies had fulfilled its obligations to complete the purchase of the Stephenville Airport. Dymcorp first announced it would purchase the airport in September 2021, primarily to build drones, but also with the intention to facilitate the return of commercial passenger flights.

In a telephone interview on the afternoon of May 19, Carl Dymond confirmed that the completion of the sale now rests entirely with the Stephenville Airport Corporation (SAC) legal team.

“In the course of this, the SAC bankruptcy side, which we also paid off for almost $135,000, we paid that off in July of last year, and then the bankruptcy discharge was going through and it finally got cleared April 13 (2023). So as part of that, there’s a line of credit that the government guarantees for the airport. There’s GST. There’s hangars that the town owns that we’re going to pay off for the town,” said Dymond.

There remain minor odds and ends to deal with, such as GST on a sweeper, so that the SAC itself can be free and clear of any debt. Dymcorp has accounted for that as well.

“So we identified those closing costs. We put that money into our lawyer’s trust, which, in turn, the undertakings were done by the lawyers for the SAC, so that they could see that the money was in trust, and those cover all the closing costs of the airport,” said Dymond. “The SAC, once the deed and title are transferred over, they can dissolve in a timely manner, so that they’re free and clear, and the airport itself there are no extra debts from people coming out of the woodwork looking to say ‘Well they owe me $50,000 from 20 years ago’. All that stuff is all cleared off now. So with this money in trust now, we’ve satisfied our closing conditions, and as per our purchase sales agreement. And now the SAC has to satisfy their closing conditions, which is the transfer of title, the deed of conveyance, and then essentially the employment contracts, the insurances, everything that we helped them with over the last couple of years.”

The final handover of the keys to the airport can’t be done until the SAC fulfills its end of the agreement.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s bought and paid for,” said Dymond. “But the administration still has to follow through.”

“His plans for Stephenville, it’s something we’ve been excited about for quite some time. It took some time, but we’re at the end of the road now and I’m just delighted for the region, for the community, and for Mr. Dymond and his partners,” said Mayor Tom Rose on the same afternoon.

Dymond said it was nice to be able to make the call to the SAC stating that the money had been deposited. Dymond has been questioned repeatedly about his company’s ability to see the sale through to completion.

“That was a joyous occasion for us. We stuck with this despite some adversity that we faced, but I think they underestimated how stubborn I am and how much we see this as a benefit to generations in the Bay St. George region.” Mayor Rose seconded Dymonds statement regarding the adversity of the deal.

“For me, the longer it took, we had a lot of naysayers out there, people who didn’t believe or didn’t want it to happen for whatever reason, but I never wavered with it because I knew it was the right thing to do,” said Rose.

Once the court issued the discharge, it took six days before Dymcorp received the official notification papers. The company then had 20 business days to deposit the money, which put the deadline at Wednesday, May 17 and was agreed upon by both parties.

“We put the money in the week before that, but by the time the lawyers talked about it, it was all said and done. I think we were only 13 days in when we populated the money,” said Dymond.

The SAC now has 20 days to finish off the administrative paperwork to complete their end of the agreement, but with the lawyers already at work, Dymond said he’s not worried.

“Both sides have been prepping this for a long time, so I don’t think it’s going to take 20 days.” Once that part is done, Dymond plans to fly in personally to take possession of the keys to his new airport, which has already been rebranded as Stephenville Dymond International Airport. “I won’t be flying into Deer Lake to pick up the keys to my airport,” laughed Dymond.

He pledged to share a lot of the information that Dymcorp was not at liberty to share during the process.

“We are hoping to put out a bit of the information to the public so that they can see what our plan is. We want to put some signage up at the airport, obviously, and then we’re going to be working in earnest, from an owner’s point of view, to ramp up the different types of businesses that we’re going to be putting into the airport.”

Dymond has touched based with Rose, who is also excited about the next steps.

“This is going to mean stability for Stephenville International Airport, more commercial flights, and the great news here too is, we’ve got the World Energy deal that’s happening, and that’s going to bring a lot of economics, demand for commercial, corporate, and cargo. That’s going to stimulate the airport for Carl Dymond and his plans for both on-site and off-site development.”

Dymond is aware of the council meeting proceedings where the town moved to stop payments that it had been making to keep the airport going in the interim.

“That’s exactly what we wanted,” said Dymond. “We’re not going to be taking any taxpayer money, whether it’s municipal, provincial or federal. So part of our stipulation, and we agreed with the town, was that once we accept ownership, we will not be sent any money from the town, and that’s the first time since 1989 that taxpayers are not going to be on the hook for this airport.”

Dymond expects that the airport will now return the favor, and help drive the local economy.

“The people of Stephenville, and Stephenville only, have footed the entire bill for the last 35, almost 37 years, so we want to show the residents of Stephenville that there’s not going to be a Stephenville Airport tax bill attached to their municipal taxes anymore.”

Dymond confirmed that one of his goals remains the return of regular passenger flights in and out of the airport, but he’s not ready to make any announcements on that front quite yet.

“We’re working through that now,” said Dymond. “We want people to travel, travel out of Stephenville. We want planes to stop in Stephenville on their way to somewhere else, and pick up people or drop off people or do pit stops, and we want Stephenville to be a destination for people to come into. When I go into that town I’m treated so well by everybody there. I love shaking hands. I love saying hello. I love getting hugs from people. I love taking selfies with people. Like, I love doing that. I’m treated like I’m from Stephenville when I’m in Stephenville, and that’s what I want everyone else to see.”

Although airlines have been struggling lately to keep passengers happy, Dymond remains optimistic about the return of passenger service.

“The beauty of Canada is that it’s so big that you can’t drive it reasonably,” he laughed. “There’s always going to be a need for airlines, and obviously we don’t want to see any of these airlines fail because of the market stresses that are on them.”

As a privately owned airport, Dymond hopes to help smaller airlines establish themselves, including through the ability to offer more affordable rates. Newfoundland and Labrador tends to skew towards the upper end of airfare in the country, and it can also be expensive to fly within the province.

“Being an international airport is one thing, but being a hub for interprovincial travel or extra-provincial travel, we want to be that standard by which private airport ownership is judged and baselined, so being good to these smaller and younger airlines as well as the major players in this space, I think there’s a way for us to do that,” said Dymond. “We also here are compliant with Transport Canada regulations to a T. We’re obligated to and we have no problems doing that. That’s what we want to do, because as we expand into different airports we want to be able to have Transport Canada’s immediate thumbs up, saying ‘yeah they did good in Stephenville. We can sign off on another airport for them’. So you know we want to really set that bar at extremely high right now for private airport ownership. We call it stewardship and that comes with, you know, being partners with these airlines, not just clients or tenants or a landlord relationship with them. It’s all about fostering good relationships and having a mutually beneficial service for all.”

Dymcorp will also fulfill its promise to the town to build a new fire hall and upgrade its services. He said they are looking at the town’s future plans with council and that once the town is ready then that part of the agreement will proceed. All of the known parameters must be in place before Dymcorp can cut that cheque.

“We’re talking with the town now, asking where’s the best place to put a fire hall? What are the engineering requirements? What are the equipment and personnel requirements? So for us, we have pledged that and we will stand by that 100 per cent.”

Having a fire hall that can respond appropriately to the airport when required has always been necessary to move forward with the sale.

“That’s beneficial to us as well.”

Dymond is truly grateful for the patience shown by the residents of Stephenville and the entire region. He personally received many messages of support through social media and private messages. He said it wouldn’t have been possible without their support.

“I know it’s been a long journey, but if it was easy everyone would do it,” said Dymond.”That support means so much to me. It made me stick with this because the climate was very harsh. But seeing that from people, knowing that we can keep generations of Western Newfoundlanders in Western Newfoundland, for me that’s the key thing, that the grandmothers and grandfathers don’t have to say goodbye to their grandsons and granddaughters anymore. That’s what I want. I want to have an entire generation that only knows opportunity in Newfoundland and I think that’s what we’re building here.”

For his part, Dymond never wavered in his determination to meet his obligations to complete the sale.

“I never got up on a Monday and said ‘I can’t do this anymore’. Never.”

On Wednesday, May 24, a representative for the Stephenville Airport Corporation released the following statement via email: “Mr. MacNeil, the Interim-chair of the Board of Directors of the Stephenville Airport Corporation, confirmed that the Board met on Tuesday, May 23, with their legal counsel concerning the sale of the Airport. The Board was advised that the legal teams for both parties are diligently working towards finalizing the sale. Legal Counsel further advised that the actual closing date for the transaction has not yet been determined as they work through the legal requirements.”

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