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What to do with Sarnia’s airport – keep it, sell it, or shut it down?

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Troy Shantz

With the prospects for Sarnia’s airport increasingly doubtful, City Hall is seeking community input on its future.

Residents can complete an online survey about Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport until Nov. 27, and attend a virtual open house on Nov. 25, at 4 p.m. called to discuss its future.

“Do you support its closure? Do you support continuing to operate it at its current status? There could be potential expansion or other opportunities out there,” said Eric Hyatt, Sarnia’s manager of planning and economic development. “Those are certainly some options.”

A consultant has recommended Sarnia get out of the airport business altogether. MDB Insight estimates the facility, which gets most of its income from now-grounded commercial flights, will experience an 80% drop in revenue this year.

If things continue as they are it could cost the city $480,000 a year to run the airport, the consultant said in a $94,000 report that went to council in September.

MDB said the money saved by divesting the airport could support other economic opportunities. The focus should be on the city’s waterfront, and its research and business park, the report said.

The 60-year-old airport needs major upgrades. They include an expanded runway, modernized terminal, and food service vendors, said Monica Shepley, an economic development officer with the city.

“It would be a long-term strategy to invest in the airport,” she said. “Some things would come first. That could be the city investing in the airport, or a new owner (investing in it).”

Keep it, sell it, or shut it down — those are the current options, but if residents have other ideas the city certainly wants to hear them, Hyatt said.

To take the survey or register for the open house, visit Comments can also be emailed to [email protected] or delivered in person to Customer Service on the main floor of City Hall.

A report will go to city council for consideration on Dec. 7, Shepley said.

Sarnia took ownership of the airport from the federal government in 1997, including all the lands, buildings and equipment.

The city then entered into a 30-year lease with Scottsdale Aviation, to operate and manage the airport at no direct cost to the city.

Because small airport’s revenue prospects were limited, Transport Canada also gave the city $850,000 to offset needed repairs and improvements.

That money, which lasted about 20 years, is now gone.

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