The Smithers Regional Airport budget is now $8.48 million. (Grant Harris photo)

The Smithers Regional Airport budget is now $8.48 million. (Grant Harris photo)

Smithers airport expansion on runway after another budget increase

Smithers airport expansion ready to takeoff in weeks after another budget increase to $8.48 million.

The $6-million Smithers Regional Airport expansion that became an $8.17-million expansion is now an $8.48-million expansion.

The new budget, which includes contingencies, was approved last Tuesday by Smithers council. The contract was awarded to Vector Projects Group Ltd. based in Kelowna.

There is no need to go to taxpayers for approval for a third time, though. The Town’s borrowing of $3 million — with annual debt servicing of $190,000 — is enough when combined with the $4 million from the provincial and federal governments in the original grant meant to be split three ways, plus more from added by other grants and airport reserves. The airport is an arms-length organization from the Town and manages its own budget.

Two extra costs were added to the project, totalling $78,000 and $466,755. Airport manager Rob Blackburn explained how Smithers council decided that now during a major expansion and renovation was a good time to get certain things done.

“The (original) design was to add a new departure lounge (with room for 118 passengers and an accessible washroom) and things to the south end of the building. And so it upgraded the air side of the building quite a bit and it upgraded most of the front of the building but not all, it stopped pretty much at the departure’s doors,” explained Blackburn.

“So council asked us to look at what would it cost to do the north end of the building to bring it up to energy efficiency and upgrade the exterior and interior of the building to bring it up to code with the rest so we wouldn’t have half of the building kind of up to snuff and the older part of the building … still stuck in the ’60s.”

He added that the hope was it would still fit the $8.17-million budget. But though it did not, Blackburn said the price was reasonable and recommended to council they approve it.

The $78,000 went to an air handling unit to accommodate the geothermal equipment going in. The $467,000 was to update the old part of the building and bring it into the 21st century.

Construction is scheduled to start in the next few weeks, with a completion target date of June 2019.

Blackburn was excited to work with Vector, which has Bulkley Valley experience building the Moricetown Health Centre, and renovating the Smithers RCMP detachment and Bulkley Valley District Hospital.

“I’m ecstatic. It’s been a ton of work. My first task when I was hired here six years ago was to get a washroom in that hold room, and it feels surreal that it’s actually going to happen now,” he said.

Smithers airport