Extreme inefficiency undermines public support

I read with great interest the Mike Davies’ article about the city scrapping de-icing equipment purchase for the airport.

RELATED: City of Campbell River scraps de-icing equipment purchase

I was the member of the Campbell River airport commission that discovered and made others aware of the cancellation of flights due to inadequate de-icing at the airport. I put forward the motion for the airport to purchase its own de-icing unit in order to maintain a level of service and provide another revenue source for the city.

The motion was put forward in 2016; $200,000 budget was put aside in 2018. At the time I thought $200,000 was gross over budgeting, but I was pleased to see it go through. I then heard $200,000 would not be enough, $300,000 would be needed with a $20,000 per year replacement cost. In the summer of 2019, in frustration, I consulted Pacific Coastal Airlines to purchase their own de-icing unit. If they did not they would go another winter with canceled flights.

Pacific Coastal bought their de-icing unit for $15,000. It took less than four months to be custom built and put onsite.

There are two lessons the citizens of Campbell River need to take away from this. The first, is no airport should be operated by a city. The standard model for an airport in Canada is to be owned by the municipality it services but operated as separate entity. All other airports on Vancouver Island are operated this way. When the city received millions of dollars from ICET (Island Coastal Economic Trust), one of the stipulations of the grant was to separate the airport from the city. The city half did this and then reneged a few years later.

The second lesson is, if $200,00 over three years cannot purchase a $15,000 piece of equipment, then the city has a major problem with its RFP (Request for Proposal) process. This is an issue that became apparent to all of us at the airport when we tried to and, finally, purchased a new fuel system at the airport. A $100,000 fuel system purchase became $1.2 million and six years to complete.

I am not an expert on municipal governance but this city has a problem that someone has to deal with. This process was not put in place and is not being practiced to the benefit of the taxpayers. This extreme inefficiency undermines public support for all capital projects. One is thing undeniable, this inefficiently will have to be dealt with sooner or later.

Sean Smyth