Gary officials unite to keep Airport Board oversight
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent February 4, 2013 5:58PM
Updated: February 4, 2013 10:33PM
GARY — The Gary/Chicago International Airport and city have joined forces to monitor Senate Bill 585 as it makes its way in the General Assembly.
The Airport Authority at a special meeting Monday voted 4-1 to select and pay up to $10,000 for a consultant to have a continued presence at the Statehouse. The city will also contribute up to $10,000 to the effort, Interim Airport Director Steve Landry said.
The board also included in its vote the option for Authority Board President Nate Williams to sign off on the contract without the board present if the two administrations find a consultant quickly. The consultants will be vetted, but time is of the essence, officials said.
“The airport thinks it’s prudent to have a consultant downstate for these negotiations,” Landry said. “The timing is also as such that we need to expedite the process.”
Airport Board member Nikki Thorn, the Porter County appointee who replaced Bob Poparad, cast the dissenting vote. Thorn didn’t return a request for comment.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who attended the executive session prior to the special meeting, said discusssions on the bill have been daily and that while she and her Chief of Staff Bridget Lane have traveled back and forth to the Statehouse over the last few weeks, continuing to do so is unrealistic. Freeman-Wilson said while she still supports the bill’s overall goal of bringing a land-based casino, trauma center and shipping port to Gary, she rejects the idea of giving the governor control.
Currently, the Gary mayor appoints four members, with Lake County, Porter County and the Indiana governor each having one appointee. The proposed legislation, authored by Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, would increase the governor’s appointments to five as well as its chair, who would have veto power.
“Gary shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other municipality,” the mayor said. “The argument cannot be made that the (Regional Development Authority) invested money into it because the state has also invested in other airports, such as South Bend and Fort Wayne. That’s what states do. No other place has its assets controlled by the state, and Gary should be no different.”