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County of St. Paul and Town of Elk Point take steps to take ownership of airport

The County of St. Paul is hoping to move forward with acquisition of the Elk Point Airport, in what would be a joint ownership between the County of St. Paul and the Town of Elk Point.

ST. PAUL/ELK POINT – The County of St. Paul is hoping to move forward with acquisition of the Elk Point Airport, in what would be a joint ownership between the County of St. Paul and the Town of Elk Point. 

Presently, the Elk Point Airport is jointly operated by the County and Town of Elk Point, with Elk Point being the managing partner. However, the provincial government owns the airport. It will cost $1 to transfer the ownership from the province to the municipalities. 

According to information from the County of St. Paul, the current lease agreement between the Government of Alberta and the Town of Elk Point and County of Elk Point, indicates that if the Town and County decide to carry out necessary upgrades of the airport, they would have to purchase the airport for $1. 

All conditions have been met regarding the lease agreement, except for “the issue of the trees on both the east and southwest side of the airport,” reads the agenda. 

CAO Sheila Kitz told Lakeland This Week that among the benefits of acquiring the airport includes economic opportunities, citing the “Economic Opportunities Report” conducted by HM Aero, an Ottawa-based aviation consulting company. 

The report indicates the opinion of HM Aero on the viability of the opportunities in the short-term (one to five years) and medium-term (six to 10 years). HM Aero did not provide an opinion on the viability of long-term (11+) opportunities. 

The report indicates there is a “medium” likelihood that the airport supports the regional agricultural sector and the oil and gas sector. If prospective businesses locate on-site, the airport could be a new source of skilled employment and workforce attraction. 

The report states the oil and gas sector is a key force in the region’s economy, “assisted by the location of Elk Point relative to the Cold Lake Oil Sands Area,” citing data from Alberta HUB, which indicates that the annual oil production in the County of St. Paul is 14.7 million barrels of oil each year. 

According to the report, one way the oil and gas sector “drives aviation activity in support of its operations” is the transport of executives, management, staff members, and cargo from oil and gas sites by air. 

Refueling services could also be provided for commercial and private users. The likelihood of this was rated “medium” under the report. 

The film industry is also indicated as a potential “medium” opportunity in the medium-term, but not in the short-term. 

Kitz said by acquiring the airport from the province, it will also allow the municipalities to develop it to benefit healthcare in the region. The airport is being used for medical evacuations on a regular basis. 

Coun. Darrell Younghans moved to proceed with purchasing the airport, providing notice to the Government of Alberta that the municipalities wish to transfer ownership of the Elk Point Airport, as well as to provide a letter of support to the Town of Elk Point to accompany their Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program Grant Application for crack sealing on the Elk Point Airport runway and that the County will partner with the Town of Elk Point to pay for the unfunded portion of the project. 

The motion passed. 

During the Oct. 23 Town of Elk Point regular meeting, council passed a motion to explore the option of purchasing the airport, alongside the County. But on Nov. 7, during a Special Council Meeting, Elk Point council rescinded the motion. 

On Nov. 28, Town of Elk Point council passed a motion to table the item to March 2024 and to schedule a meeting with Frog Lake First Nations Chief and Council early in the new year to discuss the matter. 

However, during a special meeting held with the County of St. Paul, it was asked that the matter be brough back to the Dec. 11 Town of Elk Point council meeting, which it was.  

During that meeting, Town of Elk Point Coun. Dwayne Yaremkevich said he had researched airports in Alberta and would like more time to consider the joint ownership. 

Coun. Jason Boorse noted that the County is “pressing the issue. They are partners of ours."  

Coun. Tim Smereka responded, saying the partnership “was never questioned. The airport is a big part of who we are and I would like to consider the purchase and maintain that.”  

Deputy Mayor Wanda Cochrane agreed, saying, “We need partners, in an agreement that works for us." 

Coun, Yaremkevich wound up the discussion with a motion to partner with the County of St. Paul in the purchase of the airport, which was passed unanimously. 

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