Gary airport’s options for keeping tower running during sequester are few
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent March 11, 2013 3:28PM
Updated: April 13, 2013 6:23AM
GARY — The Gary/Chicago Airport does plan on doing what it can to keep the tower up and running during the sequester, but appealing the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision won’t be part of its efforts.
Airport Project Manager Robert Gyurko, who led the Monday Airport Authority meeting in Interim Airport Director Steve Landry’s absence, said the airport on Friday received the letter from the FAA outlining the appeals process for keeping the tower opened past April 7, the day in which towers are slated to close because of the federal sequester. The deadline for the FAA appeal is March 13.
Gyurko said the letter specifies that an airport’s role in national security would be considered appealable, but loss of local jobs wouldn’t. Job loss would’ve been the main argument the airport could make.
The airport could pay Overland Park, Kan.-based Midwest Air Traffic Control, the company that provides Gary’s air-traffic controllers, out-of-pocket if it chose. At a cost of $500,000 per year, however, that option is highly unlikely.
“I don’t know how we’d pay for towers; we pay for the firemen (stationed at the airport),” Gyurko said. “It does need to be addressed.”
Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis said he would do whatever he could to help the tower stay open, because he can’t conceive of the runway project continuing without a tower in place.
“We cannot let that be vacated April 8,” Davis said.
Gary will be one of 238 regional or municipal airport towers shut down across the country. The airport will still be able to operate, however, and not having the air traffic controllers on the premise wouldn’t affect airport safety. Gyurko said Allegiant Air has not announced any plans to stop service at the airport.
In other business, the airport will need to complete whatever bond issue it will need for the runway expansion by third quarter 2013, provided the railroads stick to their current payment draw schedule.
Ross Amundson, the governor’s appointee to the board, said it sounded like the railroads were getting to dictate the airport’s financing and that the airport’s interests should be considered.