Airport working group membership being set

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Labour, business, tourism, agriculture and industry representatives, along with local citizens at large, are expected to have a seat at the table of a working group tackling what to do with the Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport

“It’s been on the city site, through social media, promoted through our partners to try to encourage anybody that’s interested to apply for that position,” said Kelly Provost, economic development director with the City of Sarnia.

Two spots for citizens are available on the seven voting-member committee.

The deadline for applications at sarnia.civicweb.net/Portal/BoardApplication is Feb. 24 at noon.

Airport operator Scottsdale Aviation will also be at the table to offer advice and input, but won’t have a vote because of potential conflicts of interest, Provost said.

The group – membership is to be selected by Sarnia city council March 1 – is being tasked with reviewing operations at other airports and consulting with industry professionals to make recommendations on potential future use for the 1950s-built city asset that’s seen a sharp drop in revenue. Last year, consultants recommended the city sell the airport.

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There’s been good interest from the community so far in the citizen spots, Provost said.

Other spots on the working group are for representatives with the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Sarnia-Lambton, the Lambton Federation of Agriculture, the Sarnia Lambton Industrial Association, and the Sarnia and District Labour Council.

There’s no criteria from economic development for selecting citizen appointees, Provost said.

After membership is selected, a kickoff meeting will be held in March to go over the group’s terms of reference.

Recommendations to council are expected back this October.

“It is a short term that this group is meant to be pulled together for, so we’ll be looking to facilitate those activities quite quickly,” Provost said.

There will be opportunities for other members of the public to engage in the process as well, she said.

Group membership is being kept small “while keeping fair representation” so the working group can more easily focus on the task, she said.

Initially, city staff had suggested one citizen appointee, but that was upped to two at the urging of Coun. George Vandenberg and the 7-2 support of council.

In December, council also approved $360,000 for Scottsdale Aviation to keep the airport running for a year while the committee does its work.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce has called for the airport to be preserved, arguing it’s important for attracting future investment and development amid population and business changes spurred by COVID-19.

“We’re very excited as to the direction it’s going in,” chamber CEO Allan Calvert said. “With all due respect, it’s not simply a task force of volunteers, but it’s more of a formulated process in obtaining the best qualified people to provide the analysis of where we’re at and where we’re going (with the airport).”

tkula@postmedia.com

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