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Plane repo business could be out at Gary airport

Updated: May 29, 2012 9:19PM



GARY — An airplane repossession business could get its walking papers over a lease dispute between the Gary/Chicago International Airport and the Gary Jet Center.

The Airport Authority voted 6-0, with member Cornell Collins absent, to give airport attorney Pat Lyp permission to start eviction proceedings against Sage-Popovich Inc., a company that repossesses airplanes and other high-end vehicles, if the dispute isn’t ironed out soon. Lyp said he and Interim Airport Director Steve Landry plan to speak with Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis one last time before taking any action, however.

Sage-Popovich was offered a 5-year lease by the Jet Center in January, said its owner, Nick Popovich, when he was told that Davis had bought the hangar from its former lessee, Don Burrell of Burrell Imaging. Popovich said he has since put $120,000 of renovations into the hangar and employs 14 people.

Burrell had signed a 20 year-lease with the airport in 1994; because Burrell sold the hangar to the Jet Center, the airport views that as Burrell abandoning the lease, Lyp said.

Lyp said he and the airport sat down with the Gary Jet Center and proposed a new lease agreement where the rent would reflect today’s prices, but an agreement hasn’t been reached yet. Gary Jet Center Managing Partner Lynn Eplawy didn’t return a call for comment.

The airport hasn’t received any complaints about Sage-Popovich and would be fine with entering into a lease with it, because the issue for the airport is having equal leasing across the board, according to Lyp. As well, any and all improvements made to the hangar become the airport’s purview.

Popovich is equally amenable to entering an agreement with the airport but said he was surprised and concerned by all the confusion over what he thought was a simple deal.

“Today is the first I’ve heard of any of this, and I haven’t heard anything from Wil that there was a problem,” Popovich said. “I’ve brought millions of dollars to this airport, and I’d like to stay here. But if they don’t want me, I’ll move.

“There are plenty of airports who would love for me to set up with them.”

In other business, the board approved to spend $30,000 to hire an as-yet-to-be determined marketing firm to bolster efforts to sell Allegiant Airlines’ presence here. The $30,000 will be added to an $150,000 joint marketing between the airline and the airport.



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