Masset residents want changes to airport terminal

  • Aug. 19, 2011 7:00 a.m.

By Alex Rinfret–Masset residents sent a clear message to council at a public meeting Monday night (Aug. 15): they want the new airport terminal to reflect Haida culture and give visitors a fantastic first impression of the community. The 50 or so members of the public who came out to the meeting seemed mostly underwhelmed by the preliminary design for the terminal, which is expected to cost just over $2-million to build. Engineer Brian O’Hara said his plans call for an 8,600 square foot, wood frame building that will provide double the amount of space in the old terminal, meet the newest BC Building Code requirements, have a highly-efficient geothermal heating system, and an extra layer of insulation. “The end result of all that is we should be able to operate the building economically,” he said. Black and white floorplans were on display in the community hall, but there were no plans or drawings to show what the exterior of the building will look like or what kind of roof it will have. Mr. O’Hara said the plans call for an exterior finish of “hardiplank” siding, like the siding on the old Rec Centre building. Resident after resident told Mr. O’Hara and mayor Barry Pages that they would like to see the building, especially the exterior, take inspiration from Haida art, perhaps with a longhouse-style facade, or some other idea. They would also prefer to see local cedar on the building, not hardiplank siding, which was described as “ugly” by one person. “We should really pay more tribute to Haida culture and design on the outside of the building,” said Rick Grange, to loud applause from those attending. “It’s the first impression people have of our island… This is our one chance to do something for the community. It’s our signature. It will be there for the next 20 years.” Others said the building simply doesn’t have any “wow factor” and urged the village and Mr. O’Hara to consider working with an architect. “If anyone looked at the outside design of this thing, it would look like we were putting up a Kentucky Fried Chicken,” Mr. Grange said. Residents also voiced concerns about the proposed geothermal heating system, saying that the Kaay Centre and the Delkatla Nature Centre have had problems with this kind of system. “We’ve heard the horror stories,” said resident Fran Redick. “Let’s not repeat the mistakes that have been made on those buildings.” Mr. O’Hara said in his opinion, geothermal is the best, most efficient heating option for the building. He is researching exactly what went wrong in buildings like the Kaay Centre, he said, and will be absolutely certain that the system will work before it is installed. “It’s been done successfully all over the place,” he said. Geothermal does cost more than other systems up front, he said, but will save money in the long run because it is more efficient. Residents asked what the estimated cost of the geothermal system is, but neither Mr. O’Hara nor administrator Trevor Jarvis had the figure. Other comments included that the building needs more windows, a lounge for pilots and flight attendants, a washroom on the second floor, and more urinals (75 to 80 percent of the passengers at the Masset airport are male, due to the fishing lodge business). Mr. Pages told the public that council and Mr. O’Hara will consider all the suggestions, but warned that the village does have the constraint of a $2-million budget. “If we had $5 million, it would be a lot different,” he said. “We’re trying to do something with a budget that isn’t a burden on the taxpayer.” Masset has been saving money for years for a new terminal building. Mr. Pages said the original terminal is a 1970 double-wide trailer that was placed on the site in 1989 and with outbuildings and additions constructed in subsequent years. The village expanded the runway to 5,000 feet in the late 1990s, and traffic has increased since then, with fish lodges using the airport in the summer and Pacific Coastal providing year-round scheduled service to Vancouver. The need for a new terminal is obvious, he said. The village is moving ahead with the project now because it successfully landed $600,000 worth of grants recently from the provincial Towns for Tomorrow program and the Gwaii Trust. The grants, combined with money from the village’s reserve fund, add up to the $2-million project budget. Village administrator Trevor Jarvis said that the final decision to proceed won’t be made until bids come in for the construction work. And if these bids are lower than expected, he said, there may be opportunity to change the design and make the building larger. The village is hoping to tender the work in the next couple of months and have the new terminal ready for next summer. But after two hours of questions and discussion, some people wondered if that timeline might be too rushed. Spencer Smith, vice-president at Pacific Coastal Airlines, said he is as eager as anyone to see a new terminal, but he also wants to make sure the facility gets all the details right. He urged the village to make sure all the airport users are “in the loop” and fully consulted before the building goes to tender. One person asked if there would be another public meeting after the village makes changes to the plan. Mr. Pages responded that he isn’t planning another meeting, but the revised plans will be available to the public at the village office, and that posters will go up letting people know that.

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