The Tillsonburg Regional Airport is under new management.
The airport, owned and operated by the Town of Tillsonburg, which is advised by the Tillsonburg Airport Advisory Committee, is home to 74 aircraft stored in 26 stand-alone hangars, and two buildings of 10 and four T-hangars. An air terminal building houses the airport administration office, SkyWay Café, boardroom, washrooms and leasable space currently occupied by the Tillsonburg Flying School.
Carlos Reyes, director of Operations and Development, submitted a report to town council stating the airport “primarily serves flight training providers, private and corporate aircraft owners and operators, charters and aerial work activities and flying clubs and gliders.”
On Aug. 18, airport administrator Annette Murray announced her retirement after 17 years working for the town. In addition, a part-time attendant also resigned effective Sept. 3.
As part of its investigations for the 2021 Tillsonburg Regional Airport Master Plan, town staff requested proposals from two companies that provide airport management services in Ontario. The Loomex Group had the lowest bid at $120,000, compared to Phoenix AGM Inc. ($132,000). The town’s approved budget for airport management in 2021 is $122,600 and the projected 2022 budget is $125,665.
A resolution was proposed at the Sept. 13 town council meeting to award a one-year contract to The Loomex Group, which later that night passed in a 4-3 vote.
“Was the Airport Advisory Committee spoken with about this and what are their thoughts on this award?” Coun. Chris Parker asked Coun. Deb Gilvesy, council’s representative on the airport advisory committee.
“Yes, as in the (staff) report and I believe in the (advisory committee) minutes as well, that the committee did not support this,” said Gilvesy, referring to the committee’s Sept. 7 meeting. “The committee is not overly confident in the contractor that has put forward the application to run the airport. The question was asked … were any feelers put out, maybe like reference checks? And the response at the committee meeting was ‘no, there wasn’t.’ So I don’t know if that’s changed.
“I would have to say there is absolutely amazing communication coming from airport staff right now. The communication has been literally phenomenal in the last two weeks.”
“I thought it was an excellent report,” said Mayor Stephen Molnar. “I want thank both the director (Carlos Reyes, director of Operations and Development) for thinking creatively at a challenging time, and … fully recognize the tremendous work done by the now retired airport manager who has absolutely been an evolution in going from where she started to where she completed her career, and the leadership that she brought there. She was a valuable member of our overall corporate team, and I thought this was an appropriate time to recognize that.”
Molnar said the town had the opportunity to be creative in seeking new airport management “without tying our hands” and an opportunity to “walk in a bit of a different direction.”
“This does not lock in over a long period of time.”
The company has tremendous references and recognition across the province, said Molnar, and there would be expanded opportunities in economic and airport development.
“Is there an out clause in the contract if things don’t work out?” asked Gilvesy.
“In the proposal we received two options,” said Reyes. One is to go month by month, which is more costly to the town, the other is a full 12 months.
“Our recommendation is to go with the one-year contract,” he said. “We have an opportunity to work with them, and do our best to make sure this contract works for the best interest of the airport.
“We will be heavily invested. We are going to have monthly meetings with the contractor to make sure we evaluate month to month what they are doing.”
“I do like to put a lot of support to our advisory committees, and as I was reading I was surprised they didn’t support it. But saying that, it was thinly veiled as to why they did or didn’t,” said Coun. Pete Luciani, asking Reyes to identify ramifications of how it would affect operations.
If council voted against a management company, Reyes said the airport administrator job would be posted and filled by recruitment, which could take up to 4-5 months.