September 2, 2014 11:56 pm

Lethbridge County asks City to share ownership of airport

Quiet and empty – it’s just another day at the Lethbridge Airport.

Attracting business to the airport has been an ongoing issue, especially when it comes to passenger traffic.

“It relies a lot upon the citizens of Lethbridge and southern Albertan’s to use the airport,” said Lorne Hickey, the Reeve of Lethbridge County.

“To attract more air service is a win win for everybody and it is vital for the maintenance of the airport.”

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Lethbridge County currently owns and operates the airport and are looking to the City of Lethbridge to help take on some of the responsibility.

“As a rural municipality, we only have a tenth of the population of the city, so it would be fair from all parties concerned to have some sort of governance and fee structure set in place for the running of the airport,” Hickey said.

The airport is financially stable for the time being. However, with low passenger movement and few airline services, the County is concerned they may run a deficit in the future.

The process of transferring ownership is still in its early stages. Both the County and the City have formed a joint Airport Governance Committee to determine an alternate operational model for the airport.

I think it’s important to recognize the importance an airport plays in a growing city. Regardless of what the outcome is, what’s important is that we are working together to protect this regional asset and making sure that it’s viable and sustainable in the future,” said Councillor Bridget Mearns, who was appointed to the new airport committee.

In 1997, the County acquired the airport. Then in 2007 they joined forces with the City to explore other funding options. This resulted in a recommendation to implement a new ownership and governance model.

“It looked at different airport authorities and commissions. If they are run by the municipalities or cities. So they looked at these different operating models,” said Mearns.

“We will have the opportunity to look through that report and then come up with those decisions.”

County officials say because the majority of people using the airport are Lethbridge residents, it makes sense to have the City share in the ownership.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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