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SV council approves airport payment

Stephenville Mayor, Tom Rose- File photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

STEPHENVILLE — The most recent council meeting took place on Thursday evening, March 9. As part of the finance committee reports, Councillor Myra White requested that Mayor Tom Rose sign a contribution agreement between the Stephenville Airport Corporation (SAC) and the Town, where the Town agrees to contribute $32,500 per month to SAC. Before the motion was voted on, Councilor Tracy Boland asked for clarification on the item so taxpayers understand the reasoning. “The airport is always a very big topic for us,” said Rose. “For the last 20 years the Town has backed the Stephenville Airport to keep it open. It went through some tough times when Air Canada pulled out in 1989, but through all of it we kept going. Now, because of World Energy and the Dymond Group of Companies, Greater NL Partnership, we’re pretty well at the end of the road for the contribution of the town, but we’re not there yet. We’re very close, probably just a month away.” The major hold up has been due to the bankruptcy protection. “It’s what held the transfer up the most. Last October, Dymond Group transferred a couple hundred thousand dollars to the trustees to clear the creditors that were not settled in the bankruptcy protection,” explained Rose. “The courts are involved when it comes to bankruptcy. It had to go from the trustee to the superintendent of the bankruptcy, then it had to go back to the trustee, and companies had to be found. Some companies had gone out of business. Some people had unfortunately passed away. Pro-rating and doing all of that was complex. It took seven months but we finally got good news at the last week’s meeting, that on April 12 at 10:00 a.m. on the court docket in St. John’s in front of the Supreme Court, the file to lift the bankruptcy will happen. Everything has been paid, the taxation regime has been completed by Ernst and Young and that means the airport is allowed to transfer.” Once that’s done, the responsibility of keeping the airport running will no longer be the Town’s. “Once it transfers we don’t have to give anymore money to keep the lights on. That’s somebody else’s responsibility and we have a new tax regime. I think it’s close to a quarter million dollars for that airport when you factor in water and sewer, that we’ve not been collecting. So as the year starts to move forward, we are going to be in a recovery position of revenue and we’ll have a company with capital who has significant plans for the airport.” Coun. Lenny Tiller remarked that while he is happy to see somebody come in to monetize the airport, he doesn’t understand how the Town has become party to a deal between two private entities (World Energy GH2 and Dymond Group of Companies). Rose replied that this is a deal between the Town and Dymond Group, but Tiller said the whole thing doesn’t happen without World Energy. “We have done our part for 20 years, keeping this place open. We’ve done our part in the last year-and-a-half, and you made an important comment where World Energy wants to ensure this stays open. World Energy has the money to make that happen. I don’t personally feel that we are in the position right now to ensure that happens anymore without either 1. raising taxes, or 2. having to cut expenditures somewhere else,” said Tiller. “The most important part is that the airport is on the right track. Finding ways to monetize something without having aircraft come here is a wonderful thing. The airport board, the airport manager deserve to be applauded for that, but I don’t feel, personally, that the taxpayers of this town need to be party to this deal.” “It’s nice to see the diversification at the airport. Obviously with World Energy we anticipate the airlines are going to be established, and that’s something we can really market and that’s something we’ve been really lacking. But now there are other opportunities because of the real estate, cargo, and a lot of people don’t know this. We contribute to the airport but the airport, part of their duties is they run the 911 system for this town. If the airport wasn’t there, we’d have to find a way to run it under our responsibility, so that’s sort of been a dual relationship, and we don’t get an invoice for that. This is a community airport and they know we support them,” replied Rose. “The contributions, they are getting smaller as you come out of winter. Obviously winter is your high-cost centre. Come the spring the revenue starts to increase and the cost starts to drop and what’s nice about this is there’s a 30-day out clause for us.” The motion was passed, with Tiller the only one to vote against it.

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