County wants town to pay for airport cost

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County wants the Town of High Prairie to share the cost of a new piece of equipment that the county believes is essential to operations.
At its regular meeting Aug. 9, council approved a recommendation to add $30,000 to the High Prairie Airport capital budget to install a new fuel station point-of-pay system.
Funds will be drawn from the airport capital reserve.
Acting Reeve Jim Zabolotniuk suggests High Prairie pay half.
“Why doesn’t High Prairie pay?” Zabolotniuk says.
“It benefits them as much as it does us.
“It should be 50-50.”
Council further passed a motion from Kinuso Councillor Roberta Hunt that Big Lakes ask High Prairie to contribute half of the cost.
However, CAO Jordan Panasiuk reminded council that the airport agreement states that the county pay for capital costs while the town contributes 50 per cent for operations up to $50,000 annually.
“Equipment is not operational, he says.
“This is capital,” Panasiuk says.
Public works co-ordinator Donna Duchesneau says the airport is attracting more air traffic.
“We are starting to see more aircraft because our fuel is cheaper,” Duchesneau says.
“It’s starting to attract more attention.”
Zabolotniuk says that is another reason that the town should contribute to the project.
“We have to tell them its operational,” Zabolotniuk says.
“We can’t operate without it.”
The recommendation was presented by the airport advisory committee, says Vic Abel, director of public works.
“Our existing fuel station point-of-sale software platform from QTPod (a U.S.-based company) is no longer supported by the supplier,” he says in a report to council.
“Currently, the system is working, but if there are any issues in the future, we may lose the ability to sell fuel entirely until a new system is installed.”
QTPod has noted that effective Oct. 15, 2022, all point-of-sale solutions will be required to accept chip-enabled credit cards which the local system does not have.
The budget amendment will cover the cost of $26,938 to purchase and install the equipment plus a contingency of $3,062 for unknown added costs.
Since the county took off the fuel sales at the airport in August 2018, fuel sales have netted revenue of $52,881.76, Abel says.
“The runway extension and overlay construction in 2018 and 2019 affected sales negatively but sales have improved since that time,” Abel says.
“Based on current sales revenue, we could anticipate cost recovery of the point-of-sale system in two to four years.”
Currently the POS system has no subscription charges.
So the subscription charges for the new system would be an additional operating cost, he says.
Abel says the new POS system will enhance services at the airport.
“It will continue to provide an important service to the aviation community, include medevac and agricultural services in the High Prairie area,” Abel says.
“Additionally, Grande Prairie STARS has indicated that having access to fuel in High Prairie extends its service area when responding to calls in this direction.”
Having the fuel sales will increase use of the airport, he says, and continue to provide a revenue source to offset costs of the airport.

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