October 5, 2023

Brockton calls for a report on possible sale of Saugeen Municipal Airport

Jon Robinson

— By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times (Photo: Pauline Kerr,  The Walkerton Herald Times)

BROCKTON – Brockton council gave the go-ahead for a detailed staff report on Saugeen Municipal Airport. The report will “evaluate the service and the potential implications of a sale or dissolution of the organization.”

The Sept. 12 council meeting was held in the downstairs hall at Elmwood Community Centre. One community member attended the meeting; also in attendance were SMA commission chair Dave Hocking, and vice-chair Tom Hutchinson. Carl Kuhnke, Brockton’s representative on SMAC, was absent.

The staff report presented at the meeting stated, in part, that “during budget deliberations… Brockton had the opportunity to consider the ongoing funding contribution made to Saugeen Municipal Airport, noting the large fundraising goals that had been included in the proposed budget. Council of the Municipality of Brockton had also identified the need to evaluate the service and the benefits it provides to all Brockton residents.”

Brockton council directed staff to send a letter to West Grey and Hanover, the other two partners in ownership of the airport, “inviting them to consider a sale of the asset, or a voluntary winding up.”

Staff have recommended preparation of a comprehensive report evaluating the service and the possible sale of the asset.

A copy of the letter sent to West Grey and Hanover, along with a piece of correspondence sent to Brockton Mayor Chris Peabody by Hocking, were included in the agenda package.

The letter to the other two municipalities, dated Sept. 8, commends the volunteers and pilots who have been instrumental in the continued operation of the airport since its beginning in 1990. The letter goes on to describe the financial challenges facing many municipalities, and the need for Brockton to “consider the long-term viability of this service (SMA) and its benefits to all Brockton residents.”

The letter further states, “In light of the current economic conditions, Council of the Municipality of Brockton believes that now is the time for… Brockton to consider the future of the Saugeen Municipal Airport, and whether it should continue as a municipally-subsidized organization, particularly given the jurisdictional challenges associated with the competing provincial and federal regulations.”

The letter invites West Grey and Hanover to join Brockton in undertaking “a public process to consider authorizing a sale” of the SMA, potentially to an entity that would allow the facility to continue as an airport, or to dissolve the partnership that owns the airport.

The first step, according to the letter, would be a staff report, either prepared jointly or separately, “on all aspects of the airport.” This process would be followed by a motion by each municipality on its intent regarding the future of the SMA.

If neither West Grey nor Hanover is willing to undertake this process, Brockton council “is of the opinion that the cost-sharing agreement that was put in place in 2005 should be reviewed and renegotiated in the near future as Arran-Elderslie is still mentioned as a party to the agreement.”

There was a brief discussion among the council members in attendance.

Coun. Kym Hutcheon said, “I do not like it that taxpayers continue to subsidize the airport.”

Coun. Tim Elphick stated he thought it “prudent” for council to review the service provided by the SMA. He also called for input from the SMA as part of the report.

Coun. Greg McLean said he “looks forward to a report that outlines the nuts and bolts” of the airport operation.

Coun. Mitch Clark made it unanimous, saying the report should provide a comprehensive look at “where the money is going,” and evaluate what service is being provided.