Posted on 08 September 2011 by admin
A proposal that could see expansion of the Osoyoos Airport at no cost to taxpayers seems to already have members of the Osoyoos Town Council flying high.
And they’re interested enough that the idea is now going to be explored in earnest.
“Let’s hear more!” said Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells, about a proposal presented at a Sept. 6 Council Committee of the Whole meeting that brought together potential developers and supporters.
Wells said part-time Osoyoos resident Tom McHale attended the meeting to explain what he and associate Steve Hankirk (who attended via speaker phone) have in mind regarding the expansion of the Osoyoos airport.
McHale, an Alberta resident, is president and owner of Gemstone Workforce Logistics, a Sherwood Park, Alta. company that provides aviation management services to large corporate clients in the oil, gas and mining fields.
“Each month, Gemstone manages the movement of thousands of workers in and out of the oilsands using 140 flights to 20 destinations – ranging from St. John’s, Nfld. to Vancouver, B.C.,” McHale stated in a letter to Council.
McHale and Hankirk, who is with Canadian North Airline, have moved “hundreds of thousands of workers in this manner to various projects,” McHale said.
Now, they’ve got their eyes on Osoyoos.
McHale has recently purchased property in Osoyoos, and says he would like to make Osoyoos his home. This would require moving his head office to town – something that is currently impossible because of the small size of the Osoyoos Airport.
“I was surprised to discover that there was a tremendous amount of pent-up support for a usable airport facility in the town of Osoyoos,” said McHale. “I offered to lend my expertise and that of my business associate… to assist with preparing a plan and proposal to expand the existing Osoyoos Airport.”
That would include lengthening the runway from the current 2,800 ft to a necessary 4,000 to 5,000 feet – which will allow the landing of Dash 8s – installation of instrument approach, construction of taxiway, apron and aircraft parking facilities, circling the airport with fencing and providing secure access, and installation of lighting, a possible small terminal building, aviation fuel and possible hangar facilities.
“Cost of the expansion and upgrades would be borne by third parties and would not burden the ratepayers of the Town of Osoyoos,” said McHale.
The acquisition of more land would be necessary – something that could be possible with the purchase of agricultural land north of the airstrip which is currently for sale.
That land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), Wells said, but airport use is an accepted use under ALR limitations.
McHale’s presentation was attended by other Osoyoos community members, Wells said, including developers and those in the tourism sector, and it was entirely an atmosphere of support, according to both Wells and Town Coun. Michael Ryan.
Essentially, the presentation at the committee meeting was simply to “open the box,” to put things in motion and elicit general support, said Ryan.
He confirmed that Council has pointed McHale to Jim Newman, Osoyoos’ Community Development Manager for ongoing support and communication.
It’s not a done deal by any means, but now the ball is in motion for the necessary steps that will allow the potential developers to find out if the project is feasible.
That starts with an “obstruction assessment” at a cost of anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000, said Wells, and then talks with the ALR and engineers.