Besides the recent controversy over the new municipal building, the loss to the taxpayers by the pending closure of the Waterville Kings County Airport is enormous. Although the warden and her “gang of six” cohorts would have us believe the closure is in the best interests of taxpayers, she has never told the true losses to the taxpayers.
The airport’s real estate has a true value of some $10-$20 million – including over $1 million in private hangars that cannot be moved - (see the taxpayer-funded $100,000 “Waterville Municipal Airport Relocation Study,” conducted by the respected firm CBCL Ltd. May 22, 2013; and not read by most, if not all council and provincial government members prior to the closure decision); yet the council has agreed to sell a good part of it for $1.8 million to Michelin Canada, without advertising for any other offers (is that not illegal with sale of taxpayer land?).
Also, government land is supposed to be sold for market value, and $1.8 million is the purported value of vacant land, not land occupied by an airport that was built mainly with federal funding for the specific purpose of an airport. In B.C, the federal government demanded its investment in an airport be returned if the airport was closed. Are Nova Scotia taxpayers going to have to fund that too?
In fact, the airport is being closed for the specific purpose of selling vacant land because Michelin will not pay the true value. Is this fraud, or at least dishonesty? A subsidy? And, to make matters worse, the president of Michelin and his spokespersons have continually stated (right up to December 2014) that there is no plan for expansion at Waterville but, in case they might want to expand in the future, they would need the airport land for the least costly expansion.
So far, Michelin has closed two of its plants here for better deals in the U.S. So, these economic experts on council, earning taxpayer-paid incomes of $30,000 to over $40,000 for part-time employment, are saying this is good for taxpayers. But there is more. The aircraft owners and operators of six businesses at the airport have been spending over $1 million a year, generating each year direct and indirect employment for 186 people, with a provincial GDP of $7.18 million - $5.2 million in the Valley (same CBCL study). All of this is being lost for $1.8 million, much of which will be used to pay costs and cleanup. Is this really a good deal for taxpayers?
The council also speaks of relocating the airport. What a joke! What they mean is “get out.” No level of government in this province has any money to build a new airport, and the federal government will not fund any more rural airports. The CBCL study indicated the true cost of moving even to Greenwood would be some $6 million; that will have to be borne by those that move there. Already there are delays at Greenwood and Digby is touted as a good interim place to go, despite having no hangars or services and is yet another hour or more drive away.
Little or misleading information, secret meetings, in camera council meetings and mismanagement are the hallmarks of this council. It’s time the premier accepted his responsibility and stopped this insanity. We can’t afford it.