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New digs for airport

On Monday, an assortment of politicians gathered at the airport in Breslau to greet Queen Elizabeth. They were back again the following day, this time for a ceremony with much less pomp and circumstance: the ground-breaking of a new $10.8 million building.

The 28,000-square-foot facility will centralize fleet maintenance and the new in-house firefighting equipment at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. The project brings the services under one roof.

MP Harold Albrecht, MPP Leeanna Pendergast, Mike Malloy of Gateman-Malloy, regional Coun. Tom Galloway, regional Chair Ken Seiling, Woolwich Mayor Bill Strauss and MP Peter Braid break ground Tuesday morning for the new Region of Waterloo International Airport fleet maintenance and firehall services facility.Among those taking part were regional Chair Ken Seiling, Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht, his provincial counterpart Leeanna Pendergast and Woolwich Mayor Bill Strauss.

โ€œThis is going to allow us to be more efficient,โ€ said Pendergast. โ€œWith the growth that we have seen recently at the airport and the increasing numbers of flights in and out of there, itโ€™s important to make sure that quality emergency response is accessible.โ€

Replacing the fire hall allows the airport to meet Transport Canadaโ€™s criteria for precision approach landings. The current fire hall 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 arrived in February.

โ€œWe werenโ€™t equipped to handle a major emergency at the airport,โ€ said Strauss. โ€œMaryhill firefighters will still respond to a structure fire there now, but if we are going to have an international airport, we need to be equipped for a problem that may come from it and our Woolwich department wasnโ€™t.โ€

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 regionโ€™s operations centre on Maple Grove Road in Cambridge. Airport equipment isnโ€™t road certified, so it has to be trucked back and forth for maintenance. This facility will house the equipment in one central location.

โ€œThe time it takes to get an emergency crew to the scene of a fire here will be much quicker after this building is operational,โ€ said John Hammer, director of transportation for the Region of Waterloo. โ€œThe equipment will be right here in the centre of the airport and full-time firefighters will be on stand-by when the planes land.โ€

The project is expected to be completed by next March. Some $4.7 million of the budget will be covered by the federal and provincial Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. The remaining balance is to be financed by the Region of Waterloo.

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

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