Gary airport

This view of the Gary/Chicago International Airport shows the main runways, with airport facilities along the left. A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility will be added to the airport next year.

John J. Watkins, The Times, file

The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority entered into a contract Wednesday with Lee Companies to manage the construction of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at the airport.

The Gary-based company, which has performed work at the airport since 2008, will be paid $121,800 to manage the bidding process and the construction of the customs facility, expected to open in June.

The facility will allow the airport to receive general aviation flights directly from foreign countries, something it cannot do now.

Airport Executive Director Dan Vicari said the project will be divided into six or seven bid packages. 

"We've identified roughly 20 different trades that will be involved," he said.

The customs facility will be in an unused building connected to the airport's Aircraft Rescue and Fire Facility.

Federal officials approved the airport's design for the customs facility in August.

Lee Companies has managed projects for airport tenant Gary Jet Center, including its recently opened corporate flight center.

Patrick Lee, owner and president, said the company worked with customs and border patrol in previous discussions for a customs facility.

"We're very aware of what they need and what they want, and how particular they are," he said.

Lee said his company would start immediately on preparing bid packages, with the roof as the first step.

"The roof is a mess," he said. "We plan to address the roof as early as tomorrow."

The airport currently has departing international flights, but arriving flights need to go through customs at another airport before landing in Gary. Airport officials believe the customs facility will join its extended runway in attracting longer flights.

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Transportation reporter

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.