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Disclosure of airport review delayed again

Mar 27, 2009

It will be next September before the public finds out if it can see the 2007 airport audit and performance review. A council request to make public as much of the two documents as possible was made last June, but lawyers for the city and airport manager Tradeport International are still working on what parts can be released.

The audit and review were prepared by Tradeport to explain its calculations of the amount of rent due to the city – a number based on profit sharing – and are based on the 1996 agreement that saw the company put in charge of the city’s airport. Parts of that 1996 agreement have never been released – an issue that has drawn some criticism and was highlighted in an investigative series of articles published in 2007 by the Hamilton Spectator.

The 2007 audit and performance review were reviewed and accepted last year by the city’s Airport Implementation Task Force who decided that they should not be released to the public. That was questioned by Brad Clark.

“I’ve read through this report and I’m scratching my head as to why it has to remain confidential,” Clark commented at the June 17, 2008 meeting of the economic development and planning committee.

In response to being told that Tradeport asked that the reports be kept secret to protect “proprietary information”, Clark said “there are very few things in here that are proprietary in interest” and argued that it would be beneficial to make the remainder public.

“My suggestion would simply be that you have our lawyers meet with the company and they can indicate what parts of this they believe is third party exempt under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and it can be severed out,” said the councillor. “Everything else can be made public, because there’s a lot of good stuff in here indicating that they are in full compliance.”

The committee agreed to ask lawyers for both the city and the company to do the review and “report back to committee, with the report – revised to identify the sections proposed to be severed.”

The first news of that review didn’t arrive until this week – although Clark had specifically requested something much quicker.

“I’m not proposing it for next year,” he had told Guy Paparella, the director of airport and industrial development, last June. “I’m talking about an audit that’s in front of us.”

Neil Everson asked the planning committee on Tuesday to extend the deadline to at least July.

“Tradeport’s legal counsel is still in deliberations on this, as is ours, so we would like to push this out, please,” he requested.

The report is now promised for September.

Brian McHattie took the opportunity to also ask for a response from Tradeport to data published this week by CATCH on dramatic drops in flights to and from the airport.

“There was a CATCH email came out, a summary of the landings and takeoffs at Hamilton airport, suggesting that it had decreased significantly and that that’s worrisome, I guess depending how you’re looking at it,” McHattie noted in asking for a Tradeport response. “It was pretty basic factual information as far as we could read, but it seems to me that they may want to comment on that.”

Everson agreed to obtain the information and send an email to councillors. 

For the first ten years of the airport agreement, no rental payment was required for the 1600 acre city-owned facility. Those began in 2007 when $84,344 was paid to the city. The 2008 amount was $161,855.

Over the two years covered by those rent payments, Tradeport issued dividends of over $9 million to its shareholders, according to the financial statements released by the company last June.

A city official recently warned that the rent payments from Tradeport will likely be lower this year. Under the terms of the 1996 agreement, half of the rental payments must be used by the city to promote or improve the airport.

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