District to be asked to help pay for airport

Duane Hicks

FORT FRANCES—The town can’t afford to keep paying to run the Fort Frances Airport by itself anymore, and will be asking district municipalities to help foot the bill.
At a special meeting Monday, council agreed to forward a resolution to the Rainy River District Municipal Association in time for its next board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
“For the longest time, Fort Frances has funded the total operational costs of the Fort Frances municipal airport,” noted Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft, who brought the resolution forward.
“It is, after all, a regional airport,” he stressed. “It serves the entire district for their travel needs, for their emergency needs, and for their economic development.”
He noted the net operational cost of running the airport rose from $94,020 in 2007 to $210,043 in 2009.
“You can see, just over three years it’s escalated dramatically,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft remarked. “So, if this keeps going and the costs continue to go [up], Fort Frances will not be able to fund this thing all by itself.
“We need help funding this airport and we are looking for the district municipalities to help us out,” he explained.
As far as he knows, the RRDMA has never before been asked to help pay for the airport.
In its resolution, the town is recommending the district municipalities pay for airport operations based on the new Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board’s funding apportionment formula.
This most recent version of that formula sees the town pay a 36 percent share of all the municipal funding that is paid to DSSAB, with the rest of the municipalities each paying a lesser share.
As such, following this formula would mean the town would pay for 36 percent of the cost of running the airport, with the others paying their lesser share.
The shared cost would commence on Jan. 1, 2011—the same time at which the new DSSAB apportionment formula comes into effect.
If the district agreed to help pay for the airport, the name of the airport would be changed to reflect that.
Coun. Andrew Hallikas agreed it’s high time everyone recognize the cost of running the airport, and the fact the airport truly serves Rainy River District and not just Fort Frances.
“We need some help with the escalating costs,” he reiterated.
“I support this resolution,” echoed Mayor Roy Avis. “I think it’s about time we let the district know what our costs are operating this [airport].”
He noted that with a change to the DSSAB apportionment formula coming into effect Jan. 1, Fort Frances will be paying over $108,000 more to DSSAB than it did this year and yet still is left supporting one of the district’s most critical services all by itself.
The airport is used mostly by medevac, which is a service for the whole district, Mayor Avis reasoned.
(Fort Frances Times)