By Lisa Harrison
A suggestion that The Township of Algonquin Highlands consider selling the Haliburton/Stanhope Municipal Airport didn’t fly during the Sept. 3 regular council meeting.
Councillors are discussing larger, strategic priorities for budget preparation, in part in relation to asset management plan development, and the airport was on that day’s agenda.
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux said she has raised the prospect of selling the airport in past discussions, and did so again, listing several concerns that included losses of $100,000 annually and what appears to be a low number of local users.
Dailloux acknowledged that there are other AH assets (such as some community centres) that run at losses, but she noted those expenses primarily benefit local taxpayers.
Mayor Carol Moffatt was among those opposed to selling the airport. She said she heard Dailloux’s concerns, but airport losses have been reduced over the years and she (Moffat) has always believed that much more can be happening at the airport than has been implemented so far.
“I think that there’s more effort that needs to go into exploring what those things are,” said Moffatt.
Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen added AH has had “really bad luck” in recent years in staffing the airport manager position, which includes responsibility for many growth initiatives.
Councillors also discussed the business park plan for neighbouring airport lands. They generally agreed it would be wise to commission a market assessment report, as a 2013 plan of similar nature is dated and not considered to be particularly helpful. A more current and effective assessment would help determine what investments and job opportunities a business park could draw, especially considering the township’s older demographics.
Danielsen maintained there’s hope for future airport site use, beginning with the latest census findings that AH had the highest population growth in the County. “And I think because of the pandemic, we’re seeing more people, as evidenced by the number of kids that are being registered in school from families coming from the south,” said Danielsen.
“Consequently, I see that [the parents] are going to be looking for
opportunities for things to do, for businesses to start … We don’t have a downtown, we don’t have
a commercial core, we don’t have
many opportunities for growth,
and this is one.”