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THE WESTERN STAR
STEPHENVILLE, N.L. — With more than $6 million coming off their books, the Stephenville Airport Corporation is now in a much better position to attract investment.
Stephenville town council, during its regular general meeting on Thursday, wrote off $6,381,950.42 in taxes owed to the town by the airport corporation.
Joe Sheen, chair of the corporation, said it was really an artificial amount that built up since the devolution of the airport from Transport Canada to the newly formed airport authority.
He said those taxes were never paid and he doesn't believe the town ever expected to collect them. But there was a problem with them continually showing up on the books.
“It reflects on your (airport corporation) overall financial liability,” Sheen said.
He said it's important on a corporate level to have the outstanding taxes written off because nearly 90 per cent of the corporation’s red ink now disappears and makes the balance sheet look more respectable.
Sheen said that’s important when they are applying for grants from ACOA and Transport Canada’s Airport Capital Assistance Program as these organizations.
“Having a balance sheet with just a little amount owing increases confidence in the operation,” he said.
Coun. Mike Tobin said writing the taxes off was the right move to make at this time because if something detrimental happened with the airport, the Town of Stephenville would have some liability.
He feels if anything were to happen, then the taxpayers of Stephenville wouldn’t be on the hook.
Tobin said there’s nothing sinister in the action as there are still plans in the works to see if the airport can succeed.
News came in late September that PAL Airlines would be discontinuing its Flight 913 that leaves Stephenville, goes to Deer Lake and then to St. John’s, as of mid-January.
Sheen said it came at a time when the Stephenville Airport Authority had engaged with PAL’s new president on a business case shared with another airport with similar goals. The plan would have realized an enhanced service to St. John’s, Labrador and a new route to Atlantic Canada, giving global connectivity.
Meanwhile, the airport received verbal support from communities in the Southwest Coast area at a Southwest Coast Joint Council meeting.
Ramea Mayor Clyde Dominie said he would fear the loss of the air ambulance service the most and is certainly on side to see the airport remain open.