The North Peace Airport Society says an assessment has shown that approximately $23 million in capital improvements are needed over the next ten years to meet the growing demands of the airport.
"North Peace Regional Airport has experienced strong passenger growth over the past ten years, and current economic conditions and planned regional industry investment indicate continued strong growth in the future," says NPAS President Fred Jarvis. "As the airport has grown, current facilities have come under stress from strong demand and new requirements have developed."
Current reserves have been released for the most urgent projects, and the increased funds will be used to fully implement needed improvements. Managing Director at North Peace Airport Services Moira Green says those include water and sewer infrastructure upgrades, terminal expansion, equipment replacement, parking improvements, terminal access roads and runway resurfacing. It's expected with the increase the AIF will fund 55 per cent of the airport's capital budget.
"[The 10 year capital plan] indicates that there's a significant difference between the funds that we have available and the work that needs to be done," she explains, "so that deficit needs to be addressed because the airport is an economic driver for the region and for us to continue to meet the needs of industry and commerce and business, we have to address those infrastructure issues."
Green explains that it was important this cost is borne by the user, not taxpayers.
"All industry that uses the airport will be paying the AIF and not the rural tax base and not a senior who owns a house in the city of Fort St. John and not a student who's attending one of our learning institutes," she argues. "It's the user who's actually funding the improvements at the facility they use."
She believes the increase will not affect traffic at the airport as its AIF is still competitive with other nearby airports.
"We're working hard to ensure that this airport is functional and relevant for [industry] and for their families and for their business, and what we need, is we need them to commit to using the airport. The more people that use the airport, the better off the airport will be, the more functional the airport will be, and the lower the price will be."
The increase was approved by both Air Canada Jazz and Central Mountain Air.