Approved design of Smithers Regional Airport expansion and renovation.

Smithers airport budget approval delayed

Smithers council decided to delay a decision on the increased $8.17-million airport budget to Dec. 13.

Smithers council voted to delay making a decision on the now $8.17-million airport expansion and renovation budget until its next meeting Dec. 13.

More information on a breakdown of costs was requested, including the eight areas listed as the cause of the $2.17-million budget increase.

It was also revealed that Mayor Taylor Bachrach was mistaken when he told The Interior News Sunday that the size of the expansion footprint would not change. It is in fact 235 square metres larger in the expansion area, plus 115 square feet in additional renovation space.

“That’s $1.6 million right there,” said airport manager Rob Blackburn, using Moore Wilson Architects Inc. estimates.

Some information was explained by Blackburn to council in front of over 30 people gathered in the gallery, including the lack of money set aside for chairs in the original $6-million budget. Each chair is pegged at over $1,000, for a total cost of over $125,000.

Accessible washrooms on the main floor were also added, though the presentation in the agenda did not specify the cost.

Another $271,000 had to be added for HAZMAT to clear out lead and asbestos, something not budget for originally.

A higher construction cost inflation was also worked into the budget versus the Kasian Architecture 2012 estimates, which had mayor and council saying they hoped a slowdown in regional construction may bring that cost down.

“So is it fair to say that in addition to a different approach to cost escalation, is we’re talking about a scope change in the project, really. We’re talking about more square footage, we’re talking about washrooms on the main floor; there are some changes that –what I’m hearing is — the consultant, the architect and staff feel really improve the project.

“So we’re talking about a better plan than the Kasian plan. I think council acted very favourably when it was presented. So those two things kind of account for the cost increase,” said Mayor Bachrach during the meeting.

Taxes are not expected to go up, as the airport improvement fee of $10 charged to each passenger, airport surplus and airport infrastructure reserve money is expected to still cover the cost of the budget increase and its corresponding debt servicing cost, assuming the $3 million the Town needs to borrow passes the alternative approval process (AAP). Less than 10 per cent of registered voters need to vote against the borrowing for the project to move forward.

That is, of course, assuming the Town is successful in getting all the grants it is applying for now. Director of finance Leslie Ford said the $125,000 from the Northern Development Initiative (NDI) and $250,000 from the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako is expected to arrive. The $750,000 through the provincial BC Air Access Grant is less of a guarantee, according to Ford, as the Town has never applied for it before.

The $4 million grant received from the Province and federal government expires in March 2019, but councillors all expressed their desire to see construction start next year.