Recent meetings of Inverness council have seen the municipal unit divided when it comes to the proposed expansion of the Margaree airport. Sadly, there really ought to be little debate on the matter.
Simply put, the tax payers of Inverness County can’t afford the price tag. The county has an operating budget of $10,808,400 to take care of all municipal responsibilities until March 31, 2018. The municipal donation to make the reconstruction of the Margaree airstrip viable would be in excess of 3 million dollars. All things considered, that’s just too much money.
Now, that isn’t to say upgrading the Margaree airport is a bad idea. Were we to see groups from the private sector come on board to supplement the municipal offering, an airport in Margaree would certainly be welcome.
As things now stand, the proposed expansion would cost approximately $10 million, with the municipality covering one third of that expense. If the county signs on, then the province and federal government would be approached to do the same, with each covering one third as well.
Keep in mind, even if the county committed to the project, that doesn’t necessarily mean either McNeil’s Liberals or Trudeau’s Grits would do the same. A ‘no’ from either the province or the feds would kibosh the plan, unless the funding model were revamped – potentially meaning an even greater contribution from the county.
With that, the estimate of $10 million for the refurbishing is just that: an estimate. The project could end up costing even more than the original sum.
Municipal council moved to support that funding formula prior to last spring’s election. However, three new councillors came to the table during that election, and the tide has changed. Now, we have three council members (newly-minted councillors John MacLennan and John Dowling, along with deputy warden Alfred Poirier) speaking against the airport. The six-person municipal unit is considering recruiting a facilitator to help decide its position.
Again, having an airport in Margaree would doubtlessly benefit the area in some ways. Visitors to Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs, two local golf courses that have garnered rave reviews from the golfing world, would have a shorter drive to their destination after touchdown. As it stands now, visitors fly into the Port Hawkesbury airport and then drive to the Inverness-based golf destination.
It’s also conceivable that visitors could use the Margaree airport as a venue from which they could explore the Cabot Trail, take in cultural events, visit Celtic Colours shows, or visit for any number of other reasons.
However, no one can argue the local group that would benefit most from the airport would be Cabot Golf. As the airport would help create an even better customer experience for Cabot’s clients, why not have Cabot cover a portion of the municipality’s share of the funding?
Another problem with having the municipality support the Margaree airport is one of redundancy. There already is an airport in Inverness County, the aforementioned Port Hawkesbury Airport. Indeed, that airport is already being refurbished and expanded due to a partnership with Celtic Air Services, a company using private money and not tax dollars. Does a county of fewer than 20,000 people really need a second airport?
A far better use of municipal funds would be to work on the water issue in the community of Inverness. Reports of mucky water and its affect on appliances have been ongoing for years. The people there deserve clear water out of their taps.
The Port Hood wharf is another matter with which the municipality will eventually have to contend. Portions of the structure are submerged, portions are crumbling away, and several spots have exposed and rusted rebar. If someone takes a fall there, a serious injury could result.
Even if there weren’t a major issue for council to deal with, there are loads of other matters that call for tax dollars: running a municipality is a costly endeavour and, even though an operating budget of $10,808,400 sounds like a lot of money, municipal services are extensive.
There’s only so much money to go around.