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2019 in Review: Council still working out how to spend airport, COLLUS sale proceeds

Though both sales began before 2019, the town received the proceeds - to the tune of $18.6 million – from both sales in 2019 and a public engagement campaign this year sought input on how to spend the cash

This year the town sold both the Collingwood Regional Airport and its local electricity distribution company (COLLUS) and received net proceeds around $18.6 million.

The Collingwood Regional Airport sale was announced on March 28, 2019, after some back and forth between the town and Winterland Developments Ltd.

The town initially announced it was selling the airport to Winterland on Aug. 2, 2018 but after several delays, the final deadline of Jan. 23, 2019 passed and the deal was dead.

Winterland proposed a revival deal and Collingwood CAO Fareed Amin delivered a counter offer.

The result was a proposal from Winterland to buy the airport for $4.1 million, same as the first offer, but this time the town will hold $300,000 in trust with lawyers to “facilitate resolution of any dispute” related to operating agreements. Council approved the deal on Feb. 28, 2019.

The sale of COLLUS mostly occurred before 2019, but the cheque for $16.355 million hit the town’s treasury on March 12, 2019.

The town of Collingwood originally sold 50 per cent of Collus to Powerstream in 2012. On October 23, 2017, council voted to sell the remaining 50 per cent of its utility. Powerstream also decided to sell, and EPCOR expressed interest in purchasing 100 per cent of Collus.

On Aug. 30, 2018, the Ontario Energy Board approved the sale, and since then, EPCOR has taken over as the town’s electricity provider.

None of the money received from the sale has been spent, except for about $200,000 in interest earned on the total, which was used to inject a bit of wiggle room in the 2020 town budget.

Council voted to seek out public input on how the proceeds should be spent, so 2019 has included several methods of engagement to accomplish the task

More than 750 people responded to a survey that ran from April 20 to June 30, 2019, asking for public opinion on how to spend the proceeds.

Paying down debt was the number one choice for 316 respondents to the survey.

The second most popular selection on the survey was the Collingwood Terminals with 234 responses and 36 comments. However, 19 of those comments were in favour of demolishing the terminals and using the land for an arts centre or green space.

Other ideas pitched by town staff include establishing a legacy fund for future community grants or town use, topping up town reserves, contributing funds toward projects like the hospital redevelopment, waterfront master plan or extending services along Heritage Drive to Millennium Park.

The decision on how to spend the proceeds is still pending, with review underway, according to the town website.

You can read more about the asset sale proceeds and public engagement process here.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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