By Carson Ellis
The town’s director of operations, Melissa Robbins, presented the newly drafted Airport Master Plan to council during its Feb. 21 meeting.
The plan that had been put together by a committee that included Robbins, Coun. Wayne Smith, several members of the Stettler Flying Club and other members from the County.
The committee meets approximately three to four times a year and have spent the last three years putting together an overall assessment of the airport. This included details of the airport such as runway specifics and area development, usage and potential usage in the future.
The draft of the Master Plan was presented to the public at the Airport during an open house in September.
Robbins said the meeting was very well attended by those who use the airport and live in the surrounding area.
The public seemed interested and pleased with the draft of the Master Plan according to Robbins. The plan is to help the joint committee involved in the operation to evaluate what needs to be done and will be used as part of applying for possible grants.
The plan is also to help the collaborative committee that oversees the airport to help keep it a safe and efficient operation. Robbins noted that although the town is the official operator of the facility, the county of Stettler handles the snow removal and shares the operational costs with the Town.
The Stettler Flying Club does the general maintenance of the facility and the property, including mowing and garbage control. This joint operation helps keep the costs of the airport low. The Flying Club also handles the fuel that is provided on the property.
Robbins says this arrangement makes it so that neither municipality has to maintain the fuel operations and that the flying club receives the profits from the sales of fuel. She notes the club keeps a minimal amount of fuel on hand at any given time to ensure quality and reduce the chance of theft.
The committee identified two capital priorities, the first of which is rehabilitation of the runway. The cost of this would be approximately $1,620,000.
The committee hopes to receive grants towards this project, which would help reduce the costs to the Town and County. At this time the project has been deemed eligible for grant funding and an application has been submitted. However, there has been no word on the application approval at this time.
The second priority is establishing a secondary safe landing area. This is to provide pilots with an alternate landing option in the case of poor weather. The plan at this time is to re-establish a north-south grass strip so pilots using the facility can make safe landings in crosswind situations.
The Master Plan also identified several operational priorities, the first of which is repair of the cement foundation of the terminal building.
This is in addition to smaller tasks such as painting and new trim. Also, the building needs some new updates such as plumbing, heating, and electrical upgrades. Some furnishings also need to be replaced in the future, although at this time those items are still acceptable and functional.
Upgrading the security of the airport is also part of the plan. A new gate had been installed with left-over money from the capital budget. If there is money left over this year, the committee is hoping to make it more secure by adding a keypad access to the gate. Although the upgrades would improve the security at the facility, there has not been any serious problems with theft or vandalism.
The last priority is to add internet access to the airport. This is to help facilitate people using the airport to be able to access a planned weather station at the facility. Pilots can get photos of weather at the airport, but the committee hopes to make it a better system overall.
Coun. Smith said that he felt Robbins presented the plan well and had nothing to add. Councillor Lawlor noted he had attended the open house in September and was impressed by the turnout.
Robbins said that the local community seemed satisfied with the plans for the airport and find it important for recreational use as well as having it available for STARS.