Q & A with the CAO- Lethbridge Airport Transfer
Lethbridge County Transfers Ownership of Lethbridge Airport to the City of Lethbridge
BACKGROUND: Lethbridge County signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Lethbridge on March 16, 2018 to transfer ownership of the Lethbridge Airport to the City. The agreement was approved on July 19, 2018 and the City is now the official owner of the airport, with the County continuing to operate it on a fee-for-service basis until December 2019.
Q: Why did Lethbridge County decide to transfer ownership of the Lethbridge Airport?
A: County Council did not enter into this decision lightly. There have been discussions on the County’s role in the future of the airport for many years and this agreement came after careful consideration from Council and staff. The County was transferred ownership and assumed operations of the Lethbridge Airport in 1997, when Transport Canada released ownership of regional airports. The County has conscientiously operated and maintained the airport for the past 20 years. Its infrastructure is in need of costly repairs and upgrades. The City of Lethbridge is better positioned to access the funding needed.
Less than 10% of the region’s population lives in the County. The success of Lethbridge County is based in agriculture and supporting it, but not running an airport.
Q: Why is Lethbridge County giving the airport to the City instead of selling it to an interested party?
A: Keeping the airport at the government level helps to ensure that costs are kept reasonable for all users. The intention is not to earn large profit but rather to enhance the airport to benefit the entire region. The County understands the benefit of having a regional airport. Selling the airport to an outside party would not guarantee it would remain open and used as an airport.
Q: Why didn’t the County shut the airport down and sell the land?
A: The process of closing the airport and reclaiming the land to be suitable for sale would have been extremely costly to the County and the region. The process could have taken years to complete. If the County had taken this course of action it would have been detrimental to all stakeholders who use the airport.
Q: Why is the County continuing to operate the airport and what does this mean for taxpayers?
A: Lethbridge County will be operating the airport on a fee-for-service basis until December 31, 2019. During this time the transitional team (which includes representatives from the County) will be evaluating the type of operating model best suited for the ongoing operation of the airport. The City will be responsible for all operating costs as well as any losses incurred during this time. No County taxpayer money will be used to fund the operation of the airport.
Q: What does the transfer mean to the County going forward?
A: By transferring the airport the County can concentrate on pursuing funding to improve and maintain our core infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The County will benefit with improved economic development as a strong thriving airport is an economic catalyst for the entire region.
Chief Administrative Officer, Lethbridge County