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Finance chair believes level of funding to airport not sustainable

A grant to Stephenville airport, seen here, was voted against by the Town of Stephenville’s finance committee chairman Mark Felix at noon hour on Thursday, Aug. 15. FRANK GALE/ THE WESTERN STAR
A grant to Stephenville airport, seen here, was voted against by the Town of Stephenville’s finance committee chairman Mark Felix at noon hour on Thursday, Aug. 15. FRANK GALE/ THE WESTERN STAR - Frank Gale

Mark Felix votes against $100,000 request that gets approval

STEPHENVILLE, N.L. —

Frank Gale
The Western Star

STEPHENVILLE
Coun. Mark Felix said the level of funding from the taxpayers of the town to the Stephenville Airport Corporation is not sustainable.
That’s why the Stephenville Town Council’s financial chairman voted against a $100,000 request for a grant from the Stephenville Airport Corporation at Thursday’s regular general meeting of council.
He said that request was not budgeted for 2019, along with any other additional financing that will place the town’s budget in deficit.
“The key message here is Stephenville taxpayers cannot afford to give the airport 70 per cent of council’s discretionary funding at the expense of other development priorities,” Felix said.
However, four members of council did approve the grant, with Mayor Tom Rose abstaining from the vote and Coun. Mike Tobin not in attendance at the meeting.
Felix said when he was elected to council it was his intent to make decisions he felt were in the best interest of taxpayers and he would be transparent on the facts.
“I believe taxpayers need to be more informed on the facts relating to funding requests from the Stephenville Airport Corporation,” he said.
Felix said the corporation is an independently incorporated body solely responsible for the management, ownership and operations of the Stephenville airport facility.
He said any decision to close of keep the airport open rests with the corporation and not council.
Felix said the corporation presented a strategic business and operational plan to council for 2016 to 2019.
He said the previous council invested $750,000 of taxpayer money into this business plan with one of four goals for the airport to become financially sustainable.
“In fact, the financial projected statements contained in the plan indicated sustainability by year 2019 and this did not occur,” Felix said.
He said as chair of finance he informed council a sustainable annual grant for the airport of $200,000 to $250,000 was achievable and something he fully supports.
“Council operates on a budget of $8.4 million and fixed costs consume $7.6 million to operate our town, leaving discretionary funding of about $800,000 to meet the needs of taxpayers,” he said.
Coun. Maurice Hynes said he met with the airport corporation on Monday and that a meeting is planned for early September and will involve parties from different levels of government.
“I think a plan will come clear on what the airport will move forward with,” he said.
Mayor Tom Rose feels the provincial and federal governments have been let off the hook for too long relating to support of the airport.
He said the airport is important for mechanical and medical emergencies when they occur, and that Stephenville is the center of four medical facilities.
“Both levels of government have to get to the table and support us,” Rose said. “We have to get this airport back on the map with daily service.”
He said at that meeting he won’t be leaving the room until there is a commitment from both levels of government.
Airport manager Brenda Martin said she would comment once she gets a better understanding of what was said at the council meeting.

frank.gale@thewesternstar.com

Timeframe Funds to Stephenville Airport Corporation Reason

December 2018 $100,000 Land purchase
January 2019 $200,000 Operating grant
June 2019 $25,000 Operating grant
August 2019 (request) $100,000 Operating grant
September 2019 (future request) $145,000 Operating grant

Total $565,000

Source: Stephenville Town Council Finance Committee Chairman Mark Felix
 

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