Chehalis Waits for State Audit Before Pursuing Airport Ownership

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The city of Chehalis is waiting on a state audit of the Chehalis-Centralia Airport to determine if it wants to move forward as sole owner of the airport. 

City Manager Merlin MacReynold said he expects the audit, which is underway, to take between two and four weeks and hopes to have results ready for the City Council within the month. 

If the audit is clear and the city approves talking over ownership, MacReynold said, Chehalis could be the sole owner by July. 

“The only outstanding thing that could hold us up is the audit,” MacReynold said. “Once that is done, we will put all of it together and brief the council on what we find.” 

Lewis County first approached Chehalis in January about giving up its half ownership of the airport to streamline operations for a two-part flood mitigation project and to reduce liability and costs.

Chehalis has shown interest in having ownership transferred over, but City Councilor Chad Taylor said he is hesitant to get too excited before the state audit is complete.

“We were the ones approached by the county and now we are going to get the information from the audit,” Taylor said. “Whether it’s a good deal or not, we don’t even know yet.” 

The county and city currently split the 350 acres of land at the airport, including the Twin City Town Center and Walmart. The majority of the airport is within the Chehalis city limits; a small portion is in unincorporated Lewis County.

While the airport is owned by the county and city, it is operated by a seven-member airport board. 

The airport board released a report in March that questioned the county’s reasons for transferring ownership and concluded it is not in the best interest of the parties to complete the move. 

The airport is 100 percent self-sustaining, using no local tax dollars or any contributions from the county or city.

Lewis County Commissioner Bill Schulte told The Chronicle that beyond talks with Chehalis, no decisions have been made and the county is just exploring its options. 

The county will also have to approve the state audit findings before anything is final.

Chehalis Mayor Tony Ketchum said all the city can do is wait for the audit and final decision from the county before the council can take action. 

“It’s all in the county’s hands,” Ketchum said. 

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