GARY | On April 21, the Federal Aviation Administration will officially close the control tower at Gary Chicago International Airport due to sequestration, but airport safety won’t be compromised.
Interim Airport Director Steve Landry delivered the report to the Gary Chicago International Airport Authority Board during Monday’s meeting. Gary is one of 149 contracted control towers the federal agency will close beginning April 7, to be completed four weeks later.
Landry said the FAA informed him of that closing date over the past weekend.
“The control tower is a contracted control tower. The air traffic controllers are not employed by the FAA but have all the credentials,” Landry said. “I want to assure the authority and everyone that safety at this airport will not be compromised.”
Allegiant Airlines pilots are all trained in landing procedures without air traffic control instructions, Landry said.
“The procedures will not be as efficient, and we expect delays,” he said. “Although we should see some impact, the procedure (for takeoffs and landings) will be just as safe is it is now.”
In other business, the airport authority heard a status report about committee activities to establish a private-public partnership at the Gary airport from David Bochnowski, a new airport board member and committee chairman.
That report included the recommendations to hire additional professional support services to get the plan off the ground.
The committee recommended to the airport authority that four firms be hired as soon as possible on an “at-risk basis,” which means that the consultants aren’t paid if they don’t achieve success.
“It’s not in the best interest for us to set specific perimeters for fee” for these services, said Bochnowski, who recommended sending out requests for quotes or requests for proposals.
Those firms recommended by the committee are Mayer Brown as airport authority’s bond counsel and attorney David Narefsky to work with public-private partnership development; Hawthorne Group to develop overall communication strategies and support; and JClark Consulting Group, the current project management company for the runway expansion, to provide project management, overall development and coordination. In addition, an as-yet unnamed financial firm should be hired to provide financial advisory services.
He said the committee also met with Kevin Willis, FAA manager of airport compliance, to discuss and review the FAA’s requirements to establish public-private partnerships as well as the privatization of airports in the U.S.
In addition, the committee met with Adam Hitchcock and Ramiro Albarran, senior members of Guggenheim Partners, the investment group expressing interest in this venture. The committee gains the perspective of an investor’s viewpoint through those discussions, he said.
“There was considerable discussion relating to length of time required for a (public-private partnership), credibility of the process and strength of community support, political will for a partnership,” Bochnowski said.
“Just as extending a runway takes time, establishing a P3 takes time,” he said, adding that the time frame would be three to four years to establish the public-private partnership.