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Stimulus money to bankroll upgrades

The Region of Waterloo International Airport is the latest beneficiary of infrastructure funds, as the senior levels of government this week announced funding totaling more than $4.7 million.

The money will allow the airport to build a new 2,600-square-metre facility that will bring fleet maintenance, the fire hall and operations maintenance under one roof.

Airfield maintenance supervisor Jeremy Gardner, general manager Chris Wood and operations manager Kevin Campbell welcomed the announcement of $7.1 million for the Region of Waterloo International Airport to replace the existing fire hall with a new combined maintenance and fire facility.
Airfield maintenance supervisor Jeremy Gardner, general manager Chris Wood and operations manager Kevin Campbell welcomed the announcement of $7.1 million for the Region of Waterloo International Airport to replace the existing fire hall with a new combined maintenance and fire facility.

The federal, provincial and regional governments will each chip in one third of the estimated $7.1 million cost, or up to $2,366,667.

“Right now, our airport operations maintenance is in a small maintenance garage, our fire hall is in an old fire hall building that’s out of date and needs to be redone, and our fleet maintenance is done off site, so we’re going to bring all of these operations under one roof,” said John Hammer, director of transportation for the Region of Waterloo.

Airport operations maintenance includes grass cutting, snow plowing and runway sweeping; the airport owns between 16 and 20 pieces of equipment. Currently fleet maintenance is done at the region’s operations centre on Maple Grove Road in Cambridge. Airport equipment isn’t road certified, so it has to be trucked back and forth for maintenance.

Replacing the fire hall will allow the airport to meet Transport Canada’s criteria for precision approach landings. The current fire hall, an older building, projects three inches into the airspace needed for precision approaches. The new building will also have the space needed to house the new fire truck that will arrive in February.

The criteria for the Building Canada Infrastructure Stimulus Fund stipulate that successful projects have to be substantially completed and ready to use before Mar. 31, 2011. The airport funding comes several months after the first round of successful applicants was announced in June, which puts them in a bit of a time crunch to finish the work on time. Hammer said the region may look into having the funding deadline extended.

“This is kind of a surprise. A pleasant surprise, but that means we’re going to have to move in high speed if we’re still going to meet the funding deadlines that they originally set,” Hammer said.

It’s unlikely the region will be putting any shovels in the ground before next spring; in 2009, the region plans to restart the design process, which was put on hold, and finalize the location of the new building.

There are two potential sites for the new facility. One is on Fountain Street, on the former Detweiler property; the other possible site is the former Goodyear property, both of which were purchased by the region a few years ago.

The region will also be revisiting the estimates that were done for the application process.

“It’s been almost six months since we put those estimates together, but we’re hoping it will be around the same price,” Hammer said.

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht said the announcement is a good-news story for the entire region.

“The big issue here is the benefit that’s going to come to the region in terms of the economy,” Albrecht said. “We’ll be able to have more traffic into and from Waterloo Region. I think anybody that’s watched the airport over the last couple years has already seen the increased traffic, so it’s important the infrastructure to support that increased flow keeps pace.”

Last year the airport saw a total of 106,052 aircraft movements, up from 104,242 in 2007 and 100,149 in 2006.

“It’s work that we’ve been wanting to do at the airport for some time, and planned to do in future years,” said regional Chair Ken Seiling. “It’s a necessary step in building the infrastructure at the airport.”

Expansion of the existing maintenance garage was among the region’s capital projects for next year. The funding announcement allowed the region to roll the three projects into one and start the work sooner than scheduled.

“We saw an opportunity to do this all at once and bring it under one roof, which should have a lot more efficiencies,” Hammer said. “Combining all this actually wasn’t in our capital program, but this funding allows it to come into our program and hopefully do it in the next two years.”

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