Council needs more time on airport 

Nebbeling is entitled to his view says Mayor Warner

Pressure is defined as a "compelling or constraining influence" and in the case of the Pemberton airport there is a lot of it flying around because there is much at stake.

There’s much at stake because the council’s decision at the airport is going to affect tourism and recreation everywhere in the Sea to Sky corridor.

There’s much at stake because the right decision could make the Pemberton community a lot of money.

Pemberton was classified in the Olympic bid as a "gateway community". It’s also important because Whistler needs a functioning airport in Pemberton come 2010.

But what really pressurizes this situation is that time is running out and the provincial and federal governments are watching.

MLA Ted Nebbeling’s comments about the airport last week clearly demonstrated this.

New enterprises traditionally need around three to five years to have their operation running smoothly and one of the plans the council is looking at will take about three years to complete.

The winter Olympics start here in five and half years.

Councillor Mark Blundell did not hesitate when asked about the scope and importance of Pemberton council’s decision on the airport.

"There’s no question as far as the Village of the Pemberton is concerned – that airport is our number one asset," said Blundell.

"And it may appear that the council is moving not as quickly as some people would like them to, but we want to make the right decision and we’re not taking it lightly.

"I didn’t appreciate the value of our airport to this community until I went to Huber (airport, near Park City, Utah)," he said.

"Huber became a very important airport for security reasons, for flying in the media and the military (during the Salt Lake Olympics) and it was a huge asset for private individuals to fly in because (like Whistler) Park City had no room to build an airport.

"What they did is really enhance the airport before the Olympics and used corporate money to build hangers."

Blundell said the Pemberton council would address the airport in earnest after the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in mid September.

"People can make comments, but at this point in time I don’t think we’ve had enough time to digest everything that needs to be done at that airport and we haven’t had time to consult with the public, and I think that process has to take place.

"I’m getting comments from people who are saying things like ‘we don’t want jets to start flying into Pemberton’… and we have to kick all these ideas in a public forum."

The council has seen two proposals: one from Intrawest and the other from Prime Air.

Prime Air wants to start an air service now using smaller charter aircraft, while Intrawest’s preference is to start an air service with passenger jets once the airport has been re-developed.

Nebbeling, a former Whistler mayor, weighed into the debate last week when he bluntly urged the council to look at the bigger picture and Intrawest’s proposal.

But Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner was not phased by Nebbeling’s comments.

"I don’t see him (Nebbeling) supporting Intrawest, I know that’s what the headline said, but I’ve read what he said and he said the Pemberton council had to engage the private sector if they want the airport developed," said Warner.

"Pemberton council will engage the private sector. You know, Prime Air is the private sector and Intrawest is the private sector."

Warner said she has spoken with the Minister for Transportation, Kevin Falcon, about the airport and was waiting for a reply.

"I don’t think we are going to be pressured into making fast decisions," Warner said.

See Prime Air’s response to Nebbeling’s comments in the letters section.

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