Baker Airport resurfacing costs over a million

“It’s just a matter of time before we face difficult decisions,” says Reg Blackwell.

In the story “Resurfacing of airport means tax increase” published in the Lakes District News’ Nov. 25, 2015 issue, a public referendum – planned for Feb. 27, 2016 – would seek the public decision on a proposed tax increase.

Lakes District residents will be asked whether they approve raising the tax limit of the Village of Burns Lake and Electoral Areas B and E to resurface the runway at Burns Lake’s Baker Airport.

According to Reg Blackwell, President of the Lakes District Airport Society (LDAS), not resurfacing the airport’s runway could cause the airport to close.

Blackwell explained that although the current condition of the runway is safe, large pieces of asphalt are cracking away from the main runway.

“The normal cure for this is to seal the cracks with a tar and sand mixture, but in this case, the subgrade has been compromised and the tar mixture seeps away under the asphalt,” he explained. “We have been advised by two professional firms that crack sealing is no longer an option and rebuilding the subgrade and resurfacing the runway is the best way to go to ensure the longevity of the runway.”

Blackwell said that due to extreme weather and temperature fluctuations in Burns Lake, frost can cause these large pieces of asphalt to “heave,” causing an uneven surface on the runway.

“If this happens, the airport would have to be closed due to safety concerns,” he said. “The cracking problem is becoming worse every year and it is just a matter of time before we face difficult decisions.”

The total cost of the runway resurfacing project is quoted at $1,585,619. The Lakes District Airport Society has applied for a number of grants to supplement this cost. However, grants only cover about $1 million of the total cost, according to Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Burns Lake.

The loan authorization bylaw being proposed would authorize borrowing of an amount up to $1 million to be repaid over a term of not exceeding 15 years, which is the estimated life of the new runway surface.

In order to meet the costs of repaying the debt accrued, it is proposed that the tax limit of the Village of Burns Lake and Electoral Areas B and E be increased from $93,750 – equivalent to a residential tax rate of $20 on a $100,000 property – to $190,000 – equivalent to a residential tax rate of $41 on a $100,000 property.

The Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce has called the resurfacing project “crucial,” and has been encouraging its members to support the project.

According to the chamber, the airport is vital for emergency air ambulance services and plays an important role during forest fire season, when the fast movement of equipment and personnel is necessary. In addition, the chamber says the airport is crucial for future economic development activities in the region.

The chamber has also explained that the proposed taxation will be “on improvements only.”

“When we say improvements only, that means that if you have a parcel of land that is 500 acres but doesn’t have any buildings or structures [improvements] on it, you wouldn’t pay tax on that land,” said Susan Schienbein, chamber manager.

Lakes District residents will now have an opportunity to ask questions about the proposed taxation increase. A series of public meetings will be held in Burns Lake and area starting next week.

The first meeting will be held at the Francois Lake Hall on Jan. 18. The second meeting will be held at the Southside Economic Development Association office on Feb. 9, followed by a meeting at the Trout Creek Community Hall on Feb. 10.

On Feb. 15, a meeting will be held at the Heritage Centre (chamber of commerce), and another meeting will be held at Rose Lake Hall on Feb. 16.

Advance polls will take place on Feb. 17. Residents will be able to vote at the Village of Burns Lake office, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako office and at the Southside Economic Development Association office.

On Feb. 27, residents will be able to vote at the following locations: Lakeside Multiplex, Trout Creek Community Hall, Grassy Plains Hall, Rose Lake Hall and Francois Lake School.

For more information, contact the chamber of commerce at 250-692-3773 or the village office at 250-692-7587.