Council grounds runway extension for now

Dawson Creek City Council has decided not to commit to a grant for the airport runway extension project this year after all.

The BC Government’s BC Air Access Program Grant would have covered 75% of the cost of the project, now estimated at $7,293,714.50, but would have required the City to commit $1,823,428.62 in 2020’s budget.

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Council had originally committed to the grant at the January 17 special meeting, but at the time, the project was estimated at $5.1 million and would have required a $1,275,000 commitment if the grant was successful. $1.6 million was in the reserve for the project, giving a bit of leeway.

But when the preliminary design report came to council at the February 25 meeting, it called for the nearly $7.3 million budget, which would have required Council to put away an extra $223,428.62 in the 2020 budget on top of what they had in they reserve.

And while not required by the grant itself, the City would have needed to put away $311,010 to put an asphalt overlay on the turning button, required work if the runway is extended, bringing the total additional costs to over $530K at least.

Two weeks later, however, they changed their minds. At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Dale Bumstead proposed that they reconsider the motion and rescind it, cancelling the grant application.

“I’m not opposed to the project, I’m opposed to the timing,” he said.

He noted he wanted to City to have its long term financial plan in place before committing to the project.

Much of council agreed with his stance.

“I’m not willing to leap without knowing what’s ahead,” said Councillor Jerimy Earl.

“I too support the airport,” said Councillor Blair Lekstrom. “But at some point, you have to say how many millions of dollars can we invest in this airport? Is it a commercial airport that we’re after? Or is it an airport that can allow for our industrial customers to bring in their staff? I think there’s a number of things we haven’t answered ourselves yet as a council.”

Councillor Charlie Parslow noted he was always against the project, saying it reminds him of the multiplex. “A $20-odd million project became a $60 million project.”

Councillor Paul Gevatkoff was the lone voice in support of proceeding with the project now, saying he is concerned the grant may not be available when council does decide to proceed. 

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