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Turbulence at the pump

County to pursue new airport fuelling system after more than two years of problems
The AvGas system at the Athabasca Regional Airport, pictured here Sept. 29, has cost the county more than $20,000 in parts and maintenance since February 2022.

ATHABASCA — Athabasca County councillors are looking to get rid of the baggage posed by the problematic fuelling system currently in use at the Athabasca Regional Airport after an update on the facility was brought to the latest budget meeting. 

During the Nov. 2 budget and finance meeting, a motion to direct administration to research and present a fuel system with point-of-sale electronic delivery to the next budget and finance meeting was carried 8-0 — Coun. Gary Cromwell was absent. 

A motion to accept the airport update provided by Jocelyn Whaley, director of infrastructure services, as information and direct administration to bring back another report to a committee of the whole meeting by February 2024 was also passed unanimously. 

“We’ve gone backwards in time and technology in terms of how we handle fuel at the airport,” said Athabasca County reeve Brian Hall. “I think we’re one step above carrying it in buckets.

“Petro-Canada, UFA, Shell, they’re all able to find a cardlock system that actually works in 40 below, and works consistently,” added Hall. 

Coun. Kelly Chamzuk told fellow councillors she knows several people “who do not use our facility for a couple reasons, (AvGas) being the lead one.” 

“I had a really good discussion with a pilot here a couple weeks ago,” said Coun. Rob Minns. “They said if anything, to be able to fill the bucket, as our reeve said, and dump it into their plane, is better than what we have running.” 

Previous reporting on the AvGas system notes the county has spent more than $20,000 in parts and maintenance on the system since February 2022, and the now ten-year-old system has been posing problems since late 2021.  

Airport Update

The update on the airport stemmed from a motion out of the Sept. 28 council meeting, which directed administration to initiate handing the oversight of the AvGas system to a committee of airport users and bring back information on a proposed committee structure for review during the Nov. 2 budget meeting. 

Whaley’s report indicated interest in the committee from a number of airport users but did stipulate more time is needed to iron out details, such as committee structure and funding. The report said the estimated timeline could be extended until spring 2024. 

“I think we need to fast-track the set-up of that committee so that they can say ‘we need money in the 2024 budget to make these improvements ASAP,’” said Coun. Ashtin Anderson. 

Minns echoed Anderson’s sentiment, adding the proposed committee was intended to gather feedback on options for a new fuelling system from airport members in order to provide suggestions to council. 

“It sounds like there’s probably a capital investment and quite a fix-up to get a proper fuelling system there,” said Beck. “Regardless of who’s going to operate it, and yes, if (the committee) is going to operate it, their input, their direction absolutely is required.” 

Both research into a fuelling system upgrades and efforts to collect feedback from airport users will go ahead, with a report on a fuel system to be presented to council at the next budget and finance meeting scheduled for Dec. 7. 

Lexi Freehill,

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