Nineteen eighties vintage snowblower serves as a backdrop on the tarmac at West Kootenay Regional Airport

Castlegar cashes in

Federal funding contingent finds a most friendly reception

The economic news spread in Castlegar on Aug. 22 was as bright and cheery as the weather.

An ideal late summer morning was the occasion for announcements concerning a number of recipients as the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of State and Chief Government Whip and Member of Parliament for Vancouver Island North, on behalf of the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, divulged the news that more than $630,000 in funding was going ahead for three safety improvement projects at the West Kootenay Regional Airport. A short while later a similar revelation was made at the Castlegar Community Complex in regard to the recreational facility as well as the Doukhobor Discovery Centre.

An accompanying press release indicated that the West Kootenay Regional Airport is receiving, through the Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP), $365,612 for the replacement of a self-propelled snowblower, $230,756 for a runway sweeper and $37,041 to purchase a runway condition reporting system.

“The West Kootenay Regional Airport is a vital gateway for local residents, businesses, trade and tourism,” Minister Duncan is quoted in the release. “This funding will enhance the safety of all those who use this airport, especially the communities and businesses in southeast British Columbia.”

The Minister later indicated the move is part of a much bigger picture, with many airports being included in the improvement process.

“And this is not the first ACAP announcement in Castlegar, either,” said Duncan following the ceremony. “We had four earlier projects we funded under that program.”

Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff was suitably upbeat for the occasion that ups the assets and capability of his city’s aviation gateway.

“The West Kootenay Regional Airport handles over 70,000 passenger movements per year and is one of the main economic drivers for the region’s economic growth and prosperity,” Chernoff is quoted in the hand out. “The City of Castlegar is very appreciative to receive this funding.”

The upgrades will also serve to make the facility more appealing to air-carriers, notably WestJet, to whom a strong and well-publicized pitch for service has been made by the City of Castlegar. Local hopes for inclusion remain and positive word is hoped for, perhaps this year. Mayor Chernoff spoke on the funding issue after a photo op was carried out.

“To me, it’s a piece in the puzzle,” said Chernoff. “Our big thing is the reliability of the West Kootenay Regional Airport. These two pieces of equipment make it even better.”

Airport manager and city fire chief Gerry Rempel, as pleased as might be expected given the nature of the occasion, commented on the event.

“We made application for the grant over a year ago,” said Rempel on the replacement of the snowblower and sweeper – 1988 and 1987 models, respectively. “We’re pretty happy, this is super news, for sure.”

By way of background, the following information was also contained in the Aug. 22 press release:

‘To date, through ACAP, the West Kootenay Regional Airport has received more than $4 million for seven projects, including today’s announcement. Since the program started, the Government of Canada has invested more than $608 million for 757 projects at 174 airports. Improvements include purchasing/replacing heavy airside mobile equipment; installing wildlife fencing; and rehabilitating runway pavements, airfield lighting and electrical systems.’

From the airport, the entourage shifted to the Castlegar Community Complex where more government financial support was announced: In these cases, the community was the recipient in terms of a new boiler and roof repair at the swimming pool, to the tune of $100,000. An infusion of $68,000 was also committed for renovations to the Doukhobor Discovery Centre.

Peter Perepolkin, Chair of the Kootenay Doukhobor Historical Society (pictured below), acknowledged with gratitude the monetary support from the federal government’s Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund.

“The funding will enable us to restore and improve many of the facets of the village itself,” said Perepolkin. “We are sincere in believing that this will provide a richer and fuller experience for the thousands of people that come to visit us.”

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