A Lacombe County councillor called out the Lacombe Flying Club members for not putting more money into the airport.
Coun. Rod McDermand said the $100 per year fee paid by flying club members is too low.
“I think they need to do something,” said McDermand during a county council meeting on Thursday. “$100 doesn’t cut it.”
McDermand said the airport, which is operated by the flying club, is mostly for private use and plane owners should be paying a bigger share of costs.
The airport was on the table as county council approved a new operating agreement, operating budget, terms of reference for an airport committee and a new name, Lacombe Regional Airport. A multi-year capital budget was also accepted for information.
The county recently joined the partnership between the flying club and City of Lacombe. The county agreed to provide $10,000 per year for operations and to consider helping fund future capital projects.
McDermand said those projects will prove expensive down the road.
Council heard that besides area flyers the airport is used by STARS and the RCMP among others.
No landing fee is charged by the airport, which is not staffed. Most of the revenue generated in its $132,000 budget comes from the sale of aviation fuel. City of Lacombe also provides about $23,000 for operations.
Tim Timmons, the county’s manager of corporate services, said the flying club volunteers operate the airport and through that cover the bulk of operating costs.
“They do have some skin in the game,” he said. The flying club expects to pay more in the future, which is one of the 21 recommendations of a feasibility study on the future of the airport completed in 2016.
“They realize that on an individual basis they have to do more than they are doing,” said Timmons.
Another recommendation is to better track who lands at the airport. Since the airport is not staffed, those flying in are asked to sign in on an honour system.
Coun. Barb Shepherd wants to see more information about how often the airport is used by STARS and others to get a sense of its importance to the area when making future funding decisions.
“I don’t have a comfort level with Lacombe Airport and how useful it is to our ratepayers,” said Shepherd.
Coun. Brenda Knight said the public perception is the airport is for the private use of flying club members.
“I do think we have to start to change that perception if we’re going to be supportive.”