Joe Dickson, MPP for Ajax-Pickering and the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources, addresses media, fire fighters and local media about the province's $12.2 million commitment to building a new fire management headquarters at Haliburton/Stanhope Municipal Airport on Friday, July 26. This is part of $47 million being spent by the province. DARREN LUM/HALIBURTON ECHO/QMI AGENCY
The province is giving Haliburton County more than 12 million reasons to smile after a recent announcement to fund the building of a fire management headquarters for Haliburton/Stanhope Municipal Airport.
Ontario is committing $12.2 million towards the building of a 17,800 square foot, one floor facility with a shipping and receiving area, parking for staff and fleet vehicles and an apron for two helicopters and two planes. There will be up to eight fulltime staff members.
Carol Moffatt, Algonquin Highlands Reeve and Haliburton County Warden, and her council were in attendance for the announcement made by Joe Dickson, MPP for Ajax-Pickering and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources. Moffatt said this is “long awaited” good news.
“The relocation of the headquarters to the Haliburton/Stanhope airport ushers in really a new chapter. I know you realize we’re all really excited about it and we’re looking really forward to it,” Moffatt said. “It also galvanizes the existing relationship that Algonquin Highlands has and has had for many years with the Ministry of Natural Resources. The relocation project has been widely embraced by the community and this is the first step to what we know will be sensible and viable development of the airport lands.” The finalization of details will be discussed at a special council meeting July 30. Negotiations with the province continue, but Moffatt has been assured the conclusion is “imminent”.
“There’s no question in my mind nor in the minister’s mind that we will be in construction this year,” Dickson said.
The discussion points at the council meeting will include rescinding the resolution for a 4,000 foot runway; a scope change application for the Building Canada Fund, the hiring of a project manager, who will be responsible for the MNR base and all of the work on the airport, construction of a new roadway from the new entrance that will be relocated farther down the Stanhope Airport Road on the right; finalization of the HCDC partially funded Land Use and Development Plan for other ideas for sustainable development on this land and finalizing earthworks to prepare for the MNR footprint.
The construction is expected to start this year and is projected to be completed spring 2015.
It will replace the current building in Haliburton that was originally designed for six staff members in 1950. At its busiest, the facility is used by as many as 56 staff members between April and Oct. 31. When there is a staff meeting it is held in the parking lot.
Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey is happy about the announcement and for Algonquin Highlands.
“Any time we can keep jobs in Haliburton County when the potential of them leaving is about to happen is a good thing,” he said.
He adds the move of the headquarters from Haliburton to Stanhope opens up opportunities.
“There’s a nice piece of property there. I’m positive that we can make some kind of investment to turn it around for our community. It’s all good,” he said.
With a customer waiting list for hangars, the project includes nine to 14 more hangars to not only meet this demand, but meet future demands. There will be 16 hangars removed during the process to make way for the headquarters. Moffatt added the footprint for the plans to the 4,000-foot runway will be untouched. This allows for the possibility of a future development. There will be six hectares of trees cleared for this project, Moffatt said.
She welcomed the public’s input.
A joint open house between the township and the MNR will be held later this year.
Moffatt said when she and her council took control close to three years ago the ministry called about the possibility of this project. “We look forward to a long and healthy relationship with the MNR and this is good news not only for Algonquin Highlands, but for all of Haliburton County,” she said.
The MNR currently works from Haliburton and a portable at the Haliburton/Stanhope airport.
Chris Cuthbertson, MNR fire management supervisor, said this project will make operations more efficient and staff will be better served, all in one location.
“We’ve outgrown our current facility,” he said. “We will be centralized and a lot more efficient.”
This is part of $47 million that will help with the renovation and rebuilding of three other fire response facilities in the province that provide forest fire response to close to 90 million hectares of Crown land. Two other announcement events were held simultaneously.
More than a thousand wildfires are suppressed every year with the help of 750 fire rangers and more than 300 private sector firefighters.
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