Gary Airport Authority changes not a sure thing

2013-08-26T15:00:00Z 2013-08-27T10:04:06Z Gary Airport Authority changes not a sure thingBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

A heartfelt departure ceremony for six members of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority on Monday does not necessarily mean it was the last meeting for all.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, after a regular Airport Authority meeting at which she praised the board's work, said it should not be assumed she will be replacing all four city appointees.

"I have had the good pleasure of working with all members of the board to move the airport forward and you have served with diligence and you have served with distinction," Freeman-Wilson told the board at the airport administration building.

The mayor had board members come to the podium one by one and presented them with a silver-colored pen and holder as a memento of their service. Authority members are not paid.

Freeman-Wilson's cautioning against any assumption she will replace all four city appointees comes after the chairman of the Indiana House Roads and Transportation Committee warned against retaining any members of the seven-person board.

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said last week it is basically "game over" for legislative help with Northwest Indiana's economic development if the entire board is not changed out Sept. 1.

Legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly in its last session terminates the term of all seven board members that day and allows appointing authorities to start fresh, provided the new appointees meet certain requirements. However the legislation is silent on the issue of appointing members who have served previously.

In addition to the mayor's four appointments, the panel has three other members. One of those is appointed by the Lake County Board of Commissioners, another by the Porter County Board of Commissioners and a third by the governor. Under the new legislation taking effect Sept. 1, the governor's appointee will serve as board chairman.

The Lake County appointee to the board, David Bochnowski, resigned last month. The governor's current appointee, Ross Amundson, has made it known he will not be serving another term.

Freeman-Wilson offered assurances Monday she will make her appointments immediately after the terms of current members end on Sept. 1.

The airport authority Monday continued to wrestle with some of the spending and expansion project issues that have bedeviled it in recent months.

Airport consultant John Clark told the authority the additional costs that come with delaying the expansion project's completion by nine months is being tabulated and will soon be delivered to the board.

The board also rejected a request from airport Finance Manager Carolyn Keith to increase by up to $50,000 the contract for assisting with airport finances that was earlier awarded to Cender & Co., of Merrillville. The current contract with Cender & Co. is for $5,000.

Board member Cornell Collins said the decision on increasing that contract is better left to the new board.

The board approved extending the duration of $6.3 million in grant assistance for the expansion project from the Indiana Department of Transportation through the end of 2015. Airport Engineer Ken Ross said the grant period was set to end this year, but with more time needed to resolve environmental issues the grant period needs to be extended.

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