Gary Airport votes for public-private partnership
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent April 8, 2013 3:56PM
The Gary Chicago International Airport terminal parking lot sits empty Friday July 16, 2010. | Archive~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 10, 2013 6:07AM
GARY — The Gary/Chicago International Airport will seek a public-private partnership and plans to have a final recommendation for that plan by August.
The Airport Authority at its Monday morning meeting voted 6-1, with Porter County-appointed Board member Nikki Thorn casting the lone dissenting vote, voted to accept the P3 Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations. It also voted 7-0 to move forward with crafting an interlocal agreement between the City of Gary and the airport.
One f the P3’s cornerstones will be for the Airport Authority to retain ownership of the airport, said Lake County appointed Board member and Ad Hoc Committee member David Bochnowski, in order to continue to be eligible for federal grants and other subsidies. But Bochnowski also advised that the businesses brought to the airport through the P3 should be left to the investors.
“For us to tell the investors what we want is counterproductive,” he said. “They need to tell us what they think works.
“These are investors who’ve done this in many places, and they have the experience while we have the asset. At the end, we do not want them to have the asset and we have the experience.”
The P3’s minimum expectations include a five-year management plan with operating measures; a five-to-10-year investment plan to include aviation and non-aviation development; and demonstrated financial capacity, in either equity or debt, at a minimum of $100 million, Bochnowski said. The Ad Hoc Committee will also continue to play a role in its development.
With regard to the airport’s air-traffic control tower, Interim Airport Director Steve Landry told the board he and staff are currently looking for funding to keep it opened after June 15th, the slated day that 149 towers across the country will close because of the sequester. The Federal Aviaition Adminstration extended the closure date to June from April 21st Friday.
Among the factors the airport needs to consider, Landry said, is cutting the tower’s hours of operation to 12 hours seven days a week versus the 17 hours, 7 days a week it’s currently opened. If kept open, the airport would be allowed to use the FAA telephone lines it currently uses, though it would have to lease equipment and schedule and perform maintenance itself.
Gary Jet Center Owner Wil Davis told the board that he’d spoken to Regional Development Authority Executive Director Bill Hanna about coming up with a plan to keep it opened.
“We’ve heard that there won’t be a safety issue by not having the tower, but there will be huge safety and marketing issue,” Davis said. “Bill seemed very receptive to the idea.”
Davis said he’d be willing to go to other tenants to see if they would help defray the cost of keeping the tower opened.
In other business, the authority voted 6-1 to temporarily promote Airport Project Manager Bob Gyurko to Interim Deputy Airport Director while combining the Security and Operations Manager positions into one position and bringing up a maintenance person to become an operations specialist. It also heard from JClark Aviation Vice President Al Stanley that the FAA is working on the airport’s letter of intent for an additional $24 million toward the runway expansion, but that the airport shouldn’t expect to hear anything for another 45 days.