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Town of Yarmouth considers withdrawal from airport partnership

The runway at theYarmouth airport is slate for repairs and a retrofit this fall.
Yarmouth airport - Tina Comeau

The Town of Yarmouth is seeking to step back from decision-making and operations with regard to the Yarmouth International Airport Commission.

During a March 1 committee of the whole meeting, a motion was passed to recommend to council that the Town of Yarmouth exercise its option to withdraw from the Yarmouth International Airport Corporation (YIAC) effective March 31, 2019.

If approved by council, the next step will see a negotiation of the withdrawal according to the terms and conditions of the intermunicipal partnership. The town will consider providing operational funding upon conclusion of a successful negotiation.

The discussion that led to the motion to consider withdrawal came about after a “long and exhaustive process” to evaluate the future of the airport.

With the YIAC agreement expiring March 31, the councils of the three municipal partners that own the airport met several times in recent months with a consultant to set the future vision for the airport and the basis for future agreements.

All three partners agreed that the current governance framework has proven inefficient with multiple independent owners. With the town removing itself from the partnership, governance and decision-making will be simplified.

"The airport is an important regional asset, but it's been hindered by the complexity of its funding and governance structures", said Mayor Pam Mood.

"The difference going forward if we decide to take this path is simply that the town will not be at the decision-making table. The airport remains open, the town continues to provide financial support and we can focus our resources on other important regional work."

One important file is the $9-million infrastructure project at the ferry terminal, which begins this spring. By removing itself as an owner and trusting the remaining partners to operate and determine the airport's future, the town can shift full attention to that project.

As the sole owner and operator of the terminal, the town is responsible for its redevelopment and operation heading into a crucial era of tourism development for the entire region.

"The town is about to embark on the largest infrastructure project we've undertaken in more than 15 years and it requires our full attention over the next three years,” the mayor said.

"As municipal partners, we don't all have to do everything, all the time. If we're working together as a region, we can allow each other to take the lead on certain endeavours and be more efficient in getting things done. We have trust and confidence in our partners that they have the same regional interests in mind and will be good stewards of the airport on behalf of all of Yarmouth County, just as we will be good stewards of the ferry terminal."

The motion from the committee of the whole will be brought to the March 14 council meeting for consideration.

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