Skip to content

Collingwood CAO calls airport deal 'sensitive'

"These are commercial transactions, and getting information out there in the public realm, while desirable, might be a challenge because it could compromise the deal," said Collingwood CAO Fareed Amin.
Collingwood Regional Airport. Collingwood Today file photo

While the airport sale remains in limbo and the closing date approaches, there won’t be much more information released about the terms of the sale, according to Collingwood’s CAO.

“I can understand why the public might be concerned or frustrated with a lack of information,” said CAO Fareed Amin. “When you go through these commercial transactions, it’s not only the town it’s also the third-party who are involved in it. So [the town] may have the inclination to provide as much information as we can in the public realm, but we also need to respect the interests of the other party. These are commercial transactions, and getting information out there in the public realm, while desirable, might be a challenge because it could compromise the deal.”

The Collingwood Regional Airport was sold to Winterland Developments Ltd. for $4.1 million earlier this month. The town announced the sale on Aug. 2 and the closing date was proposed for Sept. 25.

The announcement from the town suggested further details on the future of the airport will be addressed by Winterland Developments Ltd.

An Internet search for the company turns up no information on past projects or directors.

CollingwoodToday reached out via phone and was told by Emer Murphy the company was preparing a statement, but she didn’t have an estimate on when the statement would be ready.

Clearview Township and The Commercial Realty Group also submitted bids for the airport.

In a press release issued late Monday, Aug. 13, Mayor Christopher Vanderkruys confirmed Clearview submitted a bid for $3.5 million for the airport.

“Mayor Vanderkruys also commented that Clearview Township has concerns related to the evaluation process and scoring of submitted bids,” stated the press release. “The Township’s understanding was that keeping the facility in public ownership would have resulted in favourable scoring.”

One of the factors considered by the scoring team was keeping the airport public at least for 10 years.

Winterland is proposing to fulfill that criteria,” said Amin. “I think what the public should understand is there are a number of criteria that we were looking at and to identify and pick out one criteria without considering how the proponent scored on other criteria would be a misnomer. It doesn’t make sense if we have a proponent that that says, ‘yeah, we can maintain the airport in the public realm,’ but they don’t have the financial capacity to expand and redevelop and put in infrastructure required to make it a modern airport.”

At the strategic initiatives committee meeting at Collingwood town hall on July 17, a staff report delivered to the committee included three objectives for the sale including:

  • The airport must remain a publicly accessible regional airport facility for a period no less than 10 years
  • The owner demonstrates the ability to provide airport and infrastructure management expertise
  • The airport is managed in a commercially viable, efficient and agile manner.

According to Amin, the three bids submitted were scored by a panel of senior staff (including Amin), led by Ernst and Young – consultants hired by the town to provide advice on the commercial transaction.

“We went to council with a full-disclosure of all the information we had received from the various bidders,” said Amin. Senior staff also made a recommendation stating Winterland’s bid scored highest overall when considering all the factors.

“When you’re going through a public procurement process it’s got to be based on criteria that are transparent,” said Amin. “You can’t have a technical process based on apolitical, objective criteria and not follow through on that process.”

Winterland Developments Ltd. does lease a hangar at the airport. Amin and Collingwood Communications Director Jennett Mays confirmed that a 2013 deal to sell Winterland about 7.5 acres of land at the Collingwood Regional Airport, as referenced in the Sept. 9, 2013 council minutes did not go through.

CollingwoodToday reached out to Winterland Development on Aug. 3 and again last week. A representative – Emer Murphy – said the company would be preparing a statement. CollingwoodToday has not yet received a statement from the company.

Amin said each bidder submitted documents outlining their financial state and ability to get funding for operation and capital budgets for the airport. He declined to provide further information on the company’s work or the principles involved.

“The company will have to defend their track record,” said Amin. “Based on the information submitted to us, we evaluated them based on that information.”

Last week CollingwoodToday approached each member of council with questions about the airport sale. All those who responded deferred to the CAO citing a motion passed unanimously by council on July 12 stating all questions related to the judicial inquiry into the 2012 Collus PowerStream deal and other “high-profile matters” be referred to and addressed by the CAO.

“We have a communications protocol in the municipality and on transactions such as this, I think it was appropriate for council to ask for me to be their spokesperson,” said Amin. “I think it helps, I don’t think it hinders communication.”

Amin said the transaction was sensitive and uncommon for the town, and there were elements still being negotiated.

“I think it makes sense in any organization to have some amount of coordination and some amount of – I’m hesitant to use this word – but some amount of discipline in ensuring that the information we put out there is accurate, is consistent, and doesn’t compromise the yet-to-be-concluded commercial transaction,” he said.

Amin said the transition should be seamless, and that users should notice an improved airport experience under the new ownership.

“This was the end of a very long, thoughtful – I think – process that resulted in the sale,” said Amin. “I think it was a good transaction. I think we did our best to try and optimize the divestment for the municipality. I think the due diligence done by staff and Ernst and Young was transparent was objective and was above board. And met all the public policy and fiscal criteria so I think it was a good decision.”

The press release from Clearview Township said the owner of Winterland Developments Ltd. has been in contact with Mayor Vanderkruys for “informal discussions.”

Clearview Township communications director Tim Hendry said the initial discussions were to welcome Winterland as the new owner “as well as ensuring a collaborative relationship and communicating the importance of the regional airport as a key economic driver for Clearview Township and the entire County of Simcoe.”

Reader Feedback

Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
Read more