After lengthy negotiations involving the Township of Chapleau and the Chapleau Regional Development Corporation (CRDC), a local private organization, to date, no agreement has been reached for use of the Chapleau Airport to hold the Gold Rush Nationals in 2020.
The Township of Chapleau has been and will continue to be an important part of economic development in the community. Mayor, Council and municipal staff will continue to support and partner with residents and organizations to make Chapleau a great place to call home.
The Township was a major sponsor of the 2019 Gold Rush Nationals. The success of this event required considerable coordination between the Township and the CRDC. Mayor and Council approved the CRDC’s request for in-kind contributions which included refuse collection, use of Township equipment, airport personnel, the assistance of the fire department and marketing support. The Township further agreed to close the airport for four days at no cost to the event organizers and accepted that this decision would affect long-term tenants such as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Additionally, Council’s decision demonstrates a willingness to forego potential revenue from fuel sales and landing fees in support of this event and Chapleau’s economic well-being.
For their generous support and contributions to the success of the 2019 Gold Rush Nationals, Chapleau’s elected officials and municipal staff endured much-unwarranted criticism from the CRDC and their representatives, including negative comments over the public address system during the 2019 event. It is difficult to see how this type of behavior could be seen as fostering good relationships going forward.
Despite the critique, Mayor, Council and municipal staff continue to fulfill their duties and responsibilities to the residents and the business community, ensuring the prudent management of assets, and limiting municipal exposure to unwarranted liability as well as safeguarding against private parties taking advantage of public resources.
Protecting the interests of the Corporation of the Township of Chapleau includes conducting the necessary due diligence for the benefit of public safety. Services de santé de Chapleau Health Services, for instance, raised concerns regarding access to the airport for medical evacuation flights during the required four-day closure for the drag races in 2019. While the CRDC requested to close both runways for their private event, the Township decided to accommodate the Chapleau Health Services and as a result limited drag race activity to only one runway. The Township further consulted with Transport Canada to put procedures in place to ensure access at all times for fixed-wing emergency flights. While Council’s decision conflicted with the CRDC’s desires, Council maintained a responsible and diligent course of action to both protect the public and accommodate the drag race event. Council will not depart from its position that the safety of its residents and the general public comes first.
When entering contracts for use of public facilities for private events it is standard practice for the event organizers to assume all risk and limit any potential municipal losses or damages. There are major risks with drag racing for both participants and the public and the CRDC refused to assume those risks fully. The CRDC even threatened to cancel the event if the Township does not concede on the issue of indemnity, oblivious of the statutory municipal obligations to balance the needs of the community with the priorities of private parties.
Furthermore, the CRDC requested in-kind contributions that exceed reasonable proportions such as free use of the municipal airport, forming a committee instead of coordinating with Council’s executive representative, and trying to dictate to Council how to prioritize and govern the business/legal affairs of the Township. While realizing the importance of conducting a successful drag race event in Chapleau and in the face of unreasonable demands, Council continues to work on an acceptable solution that will protect the interests of the municipality and the public.
It remains unclear why the CRDC announced the cancellation of the 2020 Gold Rush Nationals on February 5th, 2020 prior to Council having an opportunity to consider the CRDC’s contract requests at a meeting scheduled for February 6th, 2020. Despite the unwillingness of the CRDC to sign a standard municipal facility use contract and work with the municipality to realize the event again, the Township of Chapleau remains open to reasonably accommodating the CRDC, but not at the expense of the community or exclusively for CRDC’s private benefit.
The Mayor, Council and municipal staff extend their commitment to residents and organizations to continue working to make Chapleau a great place to call home.
SOURCE – Township of Chapleau