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Lynn Lake set to shutter airport May 6 due to cost

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Lynn Lake will close its airport May 6 -- severing a vital air link to Manitoba's north.

Lynn Lake Mayor James Lindsay said the decision was made at a council meeting Tuesday after a year of trying to find a solution that doesn't require the town's 674 residents to pay more taxes. The town has operated the airport since 1999 after taking it over from the federal government, but in recent years at a deficit.

"The deficit last year was $140,000," Lindsay said. "We can't afford it."

Lindsay said the only viable alternative to keeping the airport open -- it also serves northeastern Saskatchewan -- is for the government of Manitoba to take it over.

However, Lindsay said the province told him its hands are tied because it only looks after remote airports that have no road access. Lynn Lake is connected by Provincial Road 391 to Thompson, which is 322 kilometres away.

Provincial spokesman Matt Williamson said Thursday the government is examining options for keeping the airport open. "It's important for the northern economy and we'll be looking at it in the short and long term," he said.

Besides keeping the airport runway open, aviation-fuel sales also have to be restored, Lindsay said. Fuel sales have not been available since 2011.

The runway is due to be resurfaced in six years at a cost of $6 million, a bill the town can't pay, Lindsay said.

He added the former mining town -- which was once 4,000 people -- has had to deal with crumbling infrastructure. Recently, garbage in the town hadn't been picked up in more than a week after the safety inspection expired on the town's only garbage truck. Three streets have also had watermain breaks and a boil-water order has been in place since October because of problems at the new water-treatment plant.

"We're in trouble here," Lindsay said.

Paul Turenne of the Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association said a number of lodges near Lynn Lake use the airport to fly in clients and supplies.

"For a couple of them it's essential. The town should not be left holding the ball for the whole region."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2013 A8

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