Friday November 28, 2014

editorial - Chamber offers study City should have done


It was an interesting situation at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council, one where a local organization appeared before Council to file a report with the City which probably should have been carried out by the City in the first place.

Showing leadership within the community, the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce made a presentation regarding the future of the Yorkton Regional Airport.

For the local Chamber to have an interest in the airport makes obvious sense. As others have often stated in regard to the airport, money arrives in airplanes, in particular money destined for new business development.

Air service can also be a huge asset for existing business in terms of timely connections beyond the city, as well as the arrival of parts and other things needed quickly to facilitate continued business operations.

A letter sent to the City by the Chamber requesting to make the aforementioned presentation sums up the local business organization’s interest well. “The Yorkton Chamber of Commerce considers the Yorkton Airport to be an important economic driver to the city and the region, therefore, the Chamber is keenly interested in the management and development of the Airport.”

The Chamber’s interest led the organization to study “the operations of four other airports, namely Brandon, Lloydminster, Red Deer and Medicine Hat.”

From this study, the Chamber puts forth a number of recommendations it believes will enhance the Airport’s ability for improvement and expansion.

Before even considering the recommendations themselves we should be asking why it fell to the Chamber to take a closer look at what should be considerable comparable airport operations to the one in Yorkton.

If not exactly parallel today, the identified airports would seem reasonable examples of what could be developed locally.

Such a study would seem to be the realm of the City-established Yorkton Airport Authority.

The YAA has been around for several years now, and has always had City Council representation at the table. Looking at other airports to create a benchmark from which to plan local airport development would seem to have been a logical extension of the body’s mandate.

Now Council did overhaul the YAA membership some months ago, taking the body in-house and installing the entire Council as the YAA board. That was clearly a decision made based on issues Council was having with how the YAA was doing things.

But, if failing to study the current airport and create a plan was on the list of issues Council had with the former YAA Board, the City could certainly have taken on the study in isolation of the YAA, after all the City appoints the YAA, and is the funding provider at the airport.

What the Chamber found, in picking up the ball Council seemed never to have had a grip on, was that the airport has been missing out on potential dollars through current operations.

The Chamber noted the current fuel surcharge of $0.025 cents per litre is low, with comparable rates in some cases almost double. They suggest that change could generate some $1,500 in additional revenue.

The airport also operates without landing or terminal fees for all commercial carriers. Using industry norms for fees the Chamber suggests another $28,000 could be realized.

Implementation of enplaning and deplaning fees could generate $10,000 more.

For a Council often focused on recovering as close to costs at possible from facilities, they seemed to have been missing dollars at the airport for years.

It is great to see the Chamber playing a role in trying to develop the airport to better use, but it does leave the question why they had to do leg work the City, or its appointed YAA should have been on top of ages ago.



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