Prince Rupert airport hoping City will borrow $2 million on its behalf for infrastructure

Airport Manager Rick Reed said the Prince Rupert Airport Authority is spending hand over fist to band aid old infrastructure.

  • Jul. 5, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Airport Manager Rick Reed said the Prince Rupert Airport Authority is spending hand over fist to band aid old infrastructure.

“It really hurts,” Reed told the Northern View Monday. The buildings and systems are anywhere from 40 to 50 years old. Elderly equipment means it’s costly.

The airport is asking the City to seek a loan of $2 million from the municipal finance authority to refurbish the main terminal building, which is over 50 years old, and the maintenance garage, which Reed thinks is at least 45 years old.

That loan could be part of a bigger loan for a new emergency services building that voters will be asked to consider either by referendum or a bylaw process sometime in the next few months.

Council is still debating what route to take for seeking voter approval, with some members of council leaning toward a referendum taking place during the election in November.

In the meantime, Reed was eager to outline specific details about the airport’s needs.

Presently the Airport Authority is working on finding sources of funding to assist with an infrastructure upgrade and has already applied in partnership with the City to the federal gas tax group for $900,000 to replace the heating and water treatment systems.

That application went out last month and announcements around the funding are expected in September.

The terminal requires a new roof and building envelope, including siding, windows and a seismic upgrade.

“That’s at zero right now,” Reed said of the building’s seismic requirements.

The building also needs new lighting, plumbing, fixtures and washrooms.

“A lot of it was built without foresight. The sewer lines are in the middle of the hall and embedded underneath. We have a brand new bathroom in the waiting area we can’t use because when the sewer line collapsed, the only way we could get at it was to tear up the floor,” Reed said.

Even the cinderblocks used to build the walls in the washrooms have holes in them from the pipes being place behind them.

On the weather side – the southwest end – the building has suffered a lot of damage from water intrusion.

Over at the maintenance garage, they need new doors for equipment to go in and out, new surfaces, lighting, heat and ventilation, and a new bathroom

There’s also $2 million worth of heavy equipment such as a runway sweeper and a chemical wet-dry sprayer that need replacing.

Help to fund those items is coming from the federal government in the amount of 95 percent, but Reed said the airport still needs to raise its share, which totals $146,000.

The good news is, Reed has located some used runway sweepers from Salt Lake City that are listed at $50,000 each.

They are tow-behinds – the ones presently used at the Prince Rupert Airport. They would cost $250,000 brand new.

“They are in excellent condition and of German design. We’re going to make an offer on two of those and that will save us a bundle of money,” Reed said.

Other cost savings will come with replacing the heat pump and water systems.

“We’re really enthused. Opus Dayton-Knight, who designed the water treatment system in Port Edward and for the one going into Queen Charlotte, is familiar with the type of water we have and how to remove iron and organics,” Reed said.

The new system would pump water out of a nearby lake to the building and only treat water that is going out of the taps, and that will reduce costs.

“We’re also into phase two of our runway overhaul and that will cost $600,000 plus. Again the federal government will pay 95 percent, but we have to fund-raise the rest ourselves,” Reed said.

Reed ascertains if the City is able to secure a loan, then the airport will be able to leverage matching funds and form a P3 with provincial and federal governments.

Such partnerships are occurring on the east coast in places like St. John’s, Gander and Moncton.

“They’ve been getting upgrades to airfields and air terminal buildings so I feel positive we’ll be able to form a partnership too,” Reed said.

Another concern is the access road from the ferry to the airport and its condition. Lots of issues are created by the freeze/thaw cycle that occurs during the winter months.

It’s also a result of time because some parts of the road are over 25 years old.

The airport authority plans to replace all sections that are over 10 years old, but again that will be costly, around $500,000.

Estimates by Adventure Paving suggest it would be $5 million to replace the whole road and $50,000 alone to fix the potholes.

And, said Reed, there’s the question of who exactly is responsible for the road.  “The airport authority has asked the Ministry of Transport of BC to sit down with us as soon as possible to talk about the road.”

Ninety-five percent of the road sits on provincial crown land and another portion is on First Nations Reserve land.

“Every other road in B.C. leading to an airport has been the responsibility of the province. We need to resolve the issue of title and responsibility,” Reed suggested.

He emphasized, however, the authority is not borrowing money to repair the road.

While most airports in Canada and North America are seeing ridership decline, that hasn’t been the case in Prince Rupert, where it’s been slowly inching its way up.

Typically 60,000 passengers have passed through a year for the last decade.

“It’s not significant compared to other places, yet it represents a steady use for business, family, education and medical evacuations,” Reed said.