SAULT STE. MARIE -- With its expansion project on hold due to COVID-19, the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation is no longer in need of hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked by the city's community development fund. Therefore, the airport corporation is withdrawing its request for funding.

The Sault Airport was about to embark on a $5.3 million expansion project when the pandemic began, and the City of Sault Ste Marie was ready to contribute $200,000 for water and sewer upgrades.

"Unfortunately, given COVID and its impacts, they've had to delay the project," said Tom Vair, deputy CAO of community development and enterprise services. "We're hopeful, and they're hopeful, that they'll be back in the future and will resubmit at another time."

However, with passenger totals not expected to rebound for some time, Terry Bos, CEO of the Airport Development Corp., said he doesn't anticipate resubmitting its request anytime soon.

Three to five years

"We think that's about three to five years before we get back to that," said Bos. "While we're at 10 per cent passenger levels, we just don't need the expanded water and sewage … to meet the demand we were having. But we plan to be there again someday."

Meantime, Vair said the city is keeping an eye on the situation surrounding the airport – especially with the NAV Canada review of the air traffic control tower set to be completed next month.

"Certainly we're working with the airport corporation and in constant communication with them," he said. "We recognize they're a vital piece of our infrastructure here and we're hopeful that things will improve for them and that we'll back in the future with this project."

Bos said while expansion plans are on hold, no projects have been scrapped.

Vair, meantime, said the $200,000 set aside for the expansion will simply be put back into the city's community development fund for other projects.