Meeting favours retaining Kamsack airstrip

Members of town council had wanted public input on the community’s airstrip and they got it last week when the consensus at a meeting was overwhelming to find ways to retain it.

No decisions have been made, this is an information-gathering meeting, Mayor Nancy Brunt told the meeting of about 25 persons who had assembled at the airstrip’s hut on June 4.

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“I’ve been flying out of here since the 1960s,” Peter Legebokoff of Yorkton said in support of the facility. “I was here when the ribbon was cut and can remember how other towns had praised Kamsack for having the foresight of building a paved airstrip.”

Council is facing costs to repair the deterioration of the surface, Brunt said, explaining that among the issues with the airstrip is that water does not run off as it should, but rather it pools on the asphalt which is cracking and disintegrating and the base has deteriorated.

In 10 years, council has spent $162,000 on the airstrip, said Laura Lomenda, town administrator. It has been closed for use for four weeks.

An airstrip is like a paved road, and if there is damage, the entire road is not removed and replaced, just the damaged portions are dug out and patched, it was said as a way of encouraging council to do something similar.

“No one wants to see it shut down,” it was said.

Donald Ingham, president of Leading Edge Aviation in Yorkton, who has been in the business for 26 years and is a member of the Saskatchewan Aviation Council, compared the Kamsack airstrip with the runways in Yorkton.

The paved runway at Yorkton keeps getting cracks which are refilled, Ingham said, adding that the Yorkton gravel runway still meets Transport Canada standards.

The Kamsack runway needs some TLC; the cracks need filling, he said, commending the community for the airstrip’s up-to-date lighting.

“You don’t have to spend a whole slew of money,” he said, reminding the meeting that the only airports in the province which need not be subsidized by the community directly are those in Regina and Saskatoon.

Ingham said airstrip funding on a 50-50 basis is available and Yorkton has been the largest recipient of such provincial funds.

The discussion included frequency of use of the facility and how it might be of use for wildfire fighting and for the air ambulance which can accommodate pediatric and geriatric patients while the STARS helicopter cannot.

Like a highway, an airport is an artery to a community and it has economic impact, Ingham said. An airstrip helps to attract business.

If lives are saved because of a place for an air ambulance to land, one cannot put a price on that, Councillor Claire Bishop said. If it is lost, chances are it won’t come back.

In the discussion, Lomenda said council must meet certain priorities including the landfill and a lagoon that needs dredging so funding is crucial.

The unanimous consensus of this meeting is not to close the airstrip, Rod Gardner said,

Fix the worst spots now and keep maintaining it, it was said.

“We have lots of information,” Brunt said. “It’s clear you want to keep the airstrip open. We were looking for this.”

As the meeting broke up, it was suggested that a “friends of the airport” committee be established to help oversee the facility and several persons agreed to participate on it.