By Brooks Johnson, July 18, 2014, The Daily News
The Southwest Regional Airport may have just one pilot instead of four in the near future.
Right now, the West Kelso airfield is administered by an operating board with representation — and $65,000 a year in contributions — from the cities of Longview and Kelso, Cowlitz County and the Port of Longview. But the board is looking to hand over operations solely to the port.
“(The current arrangement) is just not as efficient to me,” said Kelso Mayor David Futcher, who serves on the airport board. “For it to run effectively, one of us would have to take it over.”
The proposal is in its infancy, although talks with the port got the go-ahead at the airport board’s meeting Thursday. Longview Councilman Chet Makinster, another airport board member, thinks a title transfer would be a good move for the airport and for the city.
“Ports have more options to get financing — the airport could improve faster,” he said.
Makinster said the airport needs a longer runway, along with some minor safety improvements. To meet those needs, Futcher said, the cities and the county could keep kicking in $65,000 a year to offset operating costs for a year or more, while the port could invest in capital.
“(The port) is all about economic development,” Futcher said. “They have a marketing team, engineers, and they have the staff already in place to run that right.”
Port of Longview Community Relations Manager Amy Fischer said it’s too early for an official comment from the port, as the three port commissioners will need time to go over the issue and consider budget impacts.
Makinster said airport improvements could help complete what he called a checklist of items that make the area attractive to new businesses. He added that new businesses could be permitted to operate at or adjacent to the airport, given the right incentives.
“The port would be the most logical (agency) to actually operate the airport — in a lot of areas that’s the case,” he said.