A paving project for the Golden Municipal Airport just got lift-off, but plans for other improvements are grounded.
With concurrence from Area A Director Karen Cathcart, Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors, via a June 26 email vote, approved the release of $657,000 to the Town of Golden from the Golden and Electoral Area A Economic Opportunity Fund to be applied toward runway milling and repaving.
There was no surprise at the regular Town of Golden Council meeting of May 30, when councillors heard that the bid price for the runway was significantly higher than available and budgeted funds.
A request to CSRD to match the remaining needed funds was denied as all of the Golden and Area A Economic Opportunity Fund for fiscal 2023 has been spent or is committed to other projects. The fund’s next top-up will be in July 2024.
“Moving forward, we will continue to pursue granting from other sources, including CSRD,” Mayor Ron Oszust says, pointing out that the airport is a shared service with the regional district, which contributes operating but not the capital dollars. “That funding will be through straight taxation on an ongoing basis. Airports aren’t cheap to maintain or operate.”
A $2 million BC Air Access grant was received, with the town obligated to contribute a minimum of $222,000 as a condition of the grant. But in order to meet the budget shortfall, the contribution required is $245,835.
In his report to council on June 18, CAO Jon Wilsgard said a proposed municipal contribution could come from borrowing proceeds under Bylaw No. 1444, 2021 Loan Authorization, which permits the municipality to borrow up to $5 million for infrastructure projects.
Wilsgard reminded councillors of the airport’s importance to Golden and area and said TOG will consider undertaking a review of the airport facility and lands with a view to improve the financial viability of the airport and surrounding lands and services, support the airport committee and improve transportation and customer services.
The review would also explore the use of surplus lands for other economic development or community purposes, as well as alternative management options for the facility.
Wilsgard also suggested that, due to climate change and the increasing number and size of wildfires, the airport would be critical in supporting suppression operations and ensuring access in and out of Golden in the event of highway closures.
Oszust was blunt in his assessment of the project’s importance.
“This is a vital part of our community’s infrastructure, hence community dollars are being spent,” he says. “Unfortunately, there is more to be done and this project does not address all the work that was included in the HM Aero Aviation Consulting (HM Aero) assessment.”
Some of the issues previously expected be addressed in the short term were improved aircraft tie down positions, interior and exterior improvements to the airport terminal and a servicing study on potable water and sanitary sewer systems. Plans to prepare new development lots were also in the works for this year, while a feasibility study for flight instrumentation was planned for next year.
However, only the runway, which is vital to continued operation of the airport, will be improved at this time.
Meanwhile, Council approved a contract in the amount of $2,631,835 to Okanagan Aggregates Ltd. for the airport project, with the work to begin sometime later this summer or early fall, says Oszust.