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Town of Bashaw ponders airport closure after deficits, vandalism


July 5, 2024  By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review

The Town of Bashaw is considering closing its municipal airport after seeing the facility run deficits and suffer vandalism. The issue was discussed at a public meeting June 26.

The public meeting, held at the town office and chaired by Mayor Rob McDonald, also featured almost a dozen members of the public, some from Bashaw and some from other communities. Bashaw Fire Chief Dustin Hemingson was also present, who noted he is also a pilot.

Mayor McDonald began the meeting by saying the Town of Bashaw is facing two serious problems with its municipal airport, which is located within Camrose County. The first problem, noted McDonald, are the deficits which the airport runs and which are subsidized by Bashaw’s taxpayers. “It does rub people the wrong way,” said McDonald.

The second is the vandalism problem which ultimately is also paid for by the same taxpayers. McDonald described the vandalism problem as, “…damaging, discouraging.”

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It was noted one of the most recent incidents of vandalism involved an outer door left open and a water tap left running inside a building to either run up the utility bill, damage the property or both.

As the public began discussing Bashaw’s airport it was stated it is a useful place for training and also popular for “touch and go,” when pilots stop over briefly en route to another destination. It was stated that perhaps visitors should sign the airport logbook more often so everyone knows exactly how busy the airport actually is.

It was also suggested that rural airports like Bashaw’s are a great place to get younger people interested in aviation and without those airports a new generation of pilots may disappear.

Fire Chief Hemingson stated that talk of closing the airport concerned him from a safety standpoint. He pointed out the STARS rescue helicopter may use the airport when it comes to Bashaw; Hemingson pointed out aviation rules can be strict and if STARS lands in the same place twice that site could henceforth be considered an aerodrome with all the associated regulations. He noted the existing airport already meets all regulations. He went further by adding STARS may not be able to land in town.

Mayor McDonald stated he contacted STARS June 26 to discuss the problem and was told the helicopter will attempt to land as close to the patient as possible.

The fire chief responded those landings often require the fire department to aid in securing the landing zone.

As a pilot Hemingson stated he’s heard much positive feedback from the flying community about Bashaw’s airport, noting the grass strip is almost 3,000 feet long. This sentiment was repeated by several of those present.

McDonald responded to a question about security cameras by stating the airport doesn’t have security cameras; one member of the public suggested cameras could be bought for as little as $150.

Mayor McDonald asked those present for their suggestions on how to keep the Bashaw Airport operating. The mayor asked if there was interest in forming a non-profit society to fund, maintain and operate the airport. Throughout the meeting the public seemed very hesitant to commit to this idea.

It was noted during discussion Camrose County doesn’t contribute to the airport financially; Mayor McDonald noted as far as he knows nobody has ever asked Camrose County to pitch in. Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller stated the airport is located in the rural municipality and the Town of Bashaw pays property taxes to Camrose County for it. She also said the town pays thousands of dollars a year to maintain the airport and that expense affects the municipal budget.

As the public discussed options for generating revenue at the airport the following ideas were mentioned: introducing fuel sales which several people pointed out can be lucrative, putting up a sign at the airport simply asking for donations from visitors, hosting special events at the airport to raise funds and asking out-of-town flying clubs to pitch in and keep the Bashaw Airport flying.

Before the meeting was closed the mayor noted town staff may investigate some of these options and also asked for volunteers to act as a delegation to Camrose County council.

It was noted the Bashaw Airport is already funded for the 2024 budget year.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2023

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