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Gary airport board considers hiring someone to run public-private partnership

Updated: March 26, 2013 9:31AM



GARY ­— When the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority sees a proposal for its public-private partnership at its April 5 meeting, it also may be considering a new hire to run it.

After a 45-minute delay to the meeting’s start, the Authority at its Monday meeting voted 6-0, with member David Bochnowski absent, to approve a proposal for a new position that could oversee the partnership, or “P3.” Authority Attorney Pat Lyp said a request for qualifications would be put together for it.

“As we’re contemplating the P3, there are various tasks where one person isn’t going to be able to do everything,” Lyp said. “We’re going to be looking for other support for that aspect, but no decision has been made.”

Other terms of that position, such as salary and from where the money would come to pay for it, have also yet to be determined, Lyp said.

Interim Airport Director Steve Landry said he didn’t know any more about the position than was presented and as such, couldn’t say whether it’s something for which he would be interested in applying.

Before the vote, Bochnowski summarized the most recent P3 ad hoc committee meeting as one where the vision for the partnership took shape. He said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson outlined her vision for how it would work, though the committee would prefer people with more knowledge of P3s to set the parameters for it.

The board then voted 6-1, with member Nikki Thorn casting the dissenting vote, to hire three consultancies – Mayer Brown for legal advice, Hawthorne Group for marketing and JClark Aviation for framework advisory – on an at-risk basis, meaning the three won’t be paid if they aren’t able to produce a P3 candidate. No fees have been established.

Thorn said there has to be some sort of existing payment parameters that would give the board a better idea of what they would have to pay if they find a suitable partner. Bochnowski agreed and said that would be presented April 5 as well.

The board also voted 6-1, with Thorn abstaining, to deny a 1.45 percent salary increase to the 10 people of AECOM who’re working on the runway expansion. The raise was written in the AECOM contract as the lesser of a CPI increase or a standard 4 percent.

Board Vice President The Rev. Marion Johnson pointed out that while he understood the raises were in the contract, no one on the airport staff has received raises in years and that AECOM should “have some heart for the situation.”

In other business, Landry told the board the air-traffic control tower will be shut down April 21 by the Federal Aviation Administration as part of sequester cuts but that airport safety won’t be an issue. He also discussed the possibility of negotiating with the Gary Jet Center to waive its grounding fees for Allegiant Airlines as further incentive for the airline to stay. Doing so would not affect the airport’s bottom line, but the airport needs to do everything it can to keep Allegiant at the airport and profitable.

“If Allegiant fails here, that sends out a signal we don’t want,” Landry said.

Gary Jet Center Managing Partner Lynn Eplawy didn’t return a call for comment on whether the jet center would be amenable to the idea.



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