Merlin Air wants to fly but the Village of Pemberton lawyers are nailing its wings to the ground, if a recent letter to council is anything to go by.
In a letter sent to Pemberton council for its Nov. 17 meeting, Merlin Air President Fred Xavier outlines a host of grievances with the village, among them the allegation that the company's investments are now being used to prevent them from flying out of the Pemberton Airport, something they hoped to do during the 2010 Games.
"Where has the investment Merlin has made into (Pemberton Regional Airport) gone?" he asks in the letter. "It would seem to us, directly into paying the Village of Pemberton's lawyers to 'manage' the airport by obstructing and delaying us, effectively making it more difficult and expensive to start-up.
"Is this directly calculated to prevent starting?"
Earlier in the letter Xavier states that his company, which he operates with wife Lori Xavier, has invested $30,000 in the airport in the past year alone.
That includes $18,000 towards lease payments for an empty lot on the airport's east taxiway; an undisclosed amount towards a lease for a hangar belonging to Pemberton Helicopters; and $4,000 to clear the runway during last winter and demonstrate the airport could be used year-round - on the assumption it could be used this year.
Xavier then goes on to allege that that money is being given to Pemberton's lawyers who are obstructing development at the airport. He writes that the village's Chief Administrative Officer, Lori Pilon, wrote them in May offering a meeting to discuss issues around the airport, but that lawyers then informed them the village did not want to discuss a thing.
"In other words we are investing money so that the administrators of the Village of Pemberton can have your lawyers advise us that the Village of Pemberton does not intend to talk with us about development at (the airport) at all."
Asked about the letter at Pemberton's council meeting, Mayor Jordan Sturdy wouldn't comment, saying that issues around the airport would later be discussed at an in camera meeting. Council often discusses legal issues out of public view.
He did, however, shed some light on the allegation that Pemberton is obstructing development at the airport. He said any larger-scale development would have to be prefaced by weather information that is "longer term in nature and more comprehensive than we have."
Sturdy then said the village has been trying to put together a weather station that could give it some data to indicate whether year-round flights are feasible, particularly in winter with the volatile weather one finds in the Coast Mountains.
He said that without a minimum of three years of data, with every single day accounted for, the village could not "remotely consider" a significant investment at the Pemberton Airport.
Reached Thursday afternoon, Lori Xavier would not offer any further clarification on the letter, but she did say that she and her husband would soon meet with the village to discuss some of the issues regarding development at the airfield.
From the letter, however, it's clear the airline is losing patience.
"The greatest opportunity in the world is coming to a town next door to Pemberton," Fred Xavier wrote, "and Rome is burning while your administration and lawyers fiddle with ways to undermine, delay and subvert our expensive and very hard-earned efforts."
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