Gary airport’s application for more federal funds looking good
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent December 10, 2012 4:40PM
Stephanie Dowell/Post-Tribune The Gary Chicago International Airport terminal parking lot sits empty Friday July 16, 2010. ptmet
Updated: January 12, 2013 6:16AM
GARY — More money potentially could fill the Gary/Chicago International Airport’s runway expansion coffers, but federal officials stopped short of guaranteeing it.
Airport consultant John Clark, of JClark Aviation, said at the Airport Authority meeting Monday he’s confident he and the board will hear within the next 30 days whether the airport will receive any of the $24 million for which it’s asked the Federal Aviation Administration. The airport approached the agency in September for the additional money to be added to the $57.8 million it’s currently providing.
He recently visited with FAA officials and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, in Washington to find out the application’s status. So far, Clark said the FAA has determined some of the elements submitted — all of which were unforeseen costs — meet its requirements and so far, the project would qualify for $16 million.
The agency is still reviewing the application, but even if the airport qualifies for the entire $24 million, however, it still may not get it, Clark said.
The $57.8 million the FAA has already given the airport for the expansion will be disbursed over 10 years; the airport has asked that the additional monies be disbursed over three years.
Local hiring for the expansion has been above-board, the board also learned, though Gary residents haven’t received many of those positions. Board Vice President the Rev. Marion Johnson said he was pleased to learn during a Dec. 3 meeting he and Interim Airport Director Steve Landry hosted with a U.S. Department of Labor regional administrator as well as Northwest Indiana Building Trades Representative Randy Palmateer, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and various contractors, that 98 percent of all contractors working on the expansion are Indiana-based companies and that several of the biggest contractors are Gary-based.
But he wasn’t happy to learn that Gary residents represent only 8 percent of the project’s entire workforce, and those Gary contractors aren’t hiring enough of them, if at all.
“I may not know much (about the process), but I would think Gary companies would have more Gary people working,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said he learned that whatever guidelines the city may have in place for hiring Gary residents are rendered moot when federal money is also involved; in that case, federal guidelines apply. The city’s Assistant Compliance Officer, Felicia Wallace, however, said that going forward, the board should include her office at the start of the bidding process.
“If Gary funds are used in the project, we do have some say,” Wallace said.
Landry said the city has less than $2 million invested in the $166 million expansion.
In other business, the board voted 5-0 to extend the $12 million loan it granted itself from the airport development zone in June to June 2013 from November because it has yet to receive the $30 million it was granted from the Regional Development Authority. Board President Nathaniel Williams said he doesn’t know what the hold-up is but that the board is hoping to get it finalized and transferred back into the ADZ.