PORT HOOD: A stalemate of opinions regarding the proposed expansion of the Margaree airport has Inverness Municipal Council considering recruiting a facilitator to help the six-person municipal unit decide its official position on the matter.

“We seem to be going around in circles, and if we don’t get a decision made soon, it will reflect on everybody,” said Jim Mustard, councillor for Inverness and area. “I say we bring in a facilitator who can help us make the decision.”

Council met on June 12 for its annual meeting, and a considerable amount of time was spent discussing the municipality’s funding of the expansion.

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The proposed expansion would come with a price tag in the range of $10 million, with the municipality on the hook for one-third of the cost. Additional funding would be sought from the provincial and federal governments, with each unit taking on one-third of the expense.

That was the funding formula that council initially moved to support, prior to the election of a new council last fall.

With that, public opinion on the expansion of the Margaree airport has osculated between favourable and not-so-favourable, said Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie.

Initially, three information sessions were held, and it was determined that 67 per cent of those attending were supportive of the airport. A later public meeting where council shared the table with Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner saw several members of the public criticize the expansion.

At that point, a review committee was formed and, after its first meeting, councillor John Dowling came forward with a resolution to withdraw support from the expansion.

That resolution was tabled, and a second meeting of the review committee was held. The committee decided to recommend going forward with the proposal. That led to last Monday’s council session, when councillor Laurie Cranton moved for council to support the expansion.

The motion was seconded by Mustard, but he noted an amendment that other parties ought to be tapped to provide funding, namely Cabot Links Golf Club. No one on council questioned the location of the airport would benefit the local business.

When council tried to accept Mustard’s motion to amend Cranton’s motion, things hit a roadblock.

Councillors John MacLennan and Dowling were unwilling to second the motion, as was Deputy Warden Alfred Poirier. Poirier was also unwilling to take over as chair of the meeting, which would have allowed Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie to second the amendment.

Cranton, as the person who offered the original motion, was unable to second the amendment. He ended up withdrawing his original motion.

As it stands, Dowling, MacLennan, and Poirier have all expressed an unwillingness to support the airport expansion. They cited a number of reasons for objecting, noting that two airports in the same municipality seems excessive. The cost of the venture is also a reason they object.

Cranton is in favour of the expansion, and Mustard and MacQuarrie are at least willing to support the expansion until additional funding (from the other levels of government and possibly Cabot) can be identified.

Cranton represents the Margaree area, and Dowling represents an area including Port Hastings, where the Port Hawkesbury Municipal Airport is located.



New airport owners drawing worldwide attention

PORT HAWKESBURY: An update to this month’s regular meeting of town council suggests that the new owners of the Port Hawkesbury Municipal Airport are attracting global interest in their new approach to the airstrip just outside the Port Hastings Rotary.

Celtic Air Services Limited (CASL) owner-operator David Morgan and managing director Damian MacInnis each attended the June 13 meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council’s Committee-of-the-Whole, with Morgan providing an update on CASL’s progress over the past two months.

Since signing a letter of intent with the town in late April to lease airport property for a new jet reception centre, including a new office and reception area along with 150,000 extra feet of additional hangar space, the company has received, in Morgan’s words, “literally over 100 resumes” from potential CASL employees, while drawing attention from around the world with the new company Web site and social media accounts.

“We’ve had Facebook ‘likes’ from as far away as United Arab Emirates, and we’ve had folks inquiring about travel from all over the world,” Morgan told the June 13 meeting at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Shannon Studio.

“Without those folks coming here, we just couldn’t exist, so we’re really trying to get out there and publicize the airport.”

Pledging to invest “almost $1 million” in the Port Hawkesbury Municipal Airport before the end of 2017, Morgan is hoping to bolster the Port Hastings-based operation with such additions as a shuttle service to and from Port Hawkesbury and significant infrastructure and equipment investments over the weeks and months to come.

“When it comes to airports, there’s a lot of shiny stuff and there are a lot of basic things that people overlook – what we plan to do is look after airplanes, airlines and pilots, and sort of look after them in that order,” Morgan declared. “No longer will planes be sitting on the ramp with their engines turned off and a temperature on the tarmac at around 45 degrees, as the sun beats down.”

Describing the airport as “a building block for our community,” Morgan also told his town council audience that CASL’s desire is to offer customers and pilots alike a true taste of Cape Breton hospitality.

“There are already some rooms in there for them to catch up on their rest, while the passengers head off to a business meeting or perhaps a round of golf,” he added.

“We’ve got some great people lined up, and they’re all ready to welcome the clients as soon as they get off the planes. As we look after those people, they’re going to come into our lounge and cool off and wait for customers, or they’re going to get into the shuttle and get on the road.”