Gary airport officials out of loop on mayor's bill

2012-01-09T14:00:00Z 2013-05-18T17:56:56Z Gary airport officials out of loop on mayor's billBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

GARY | The president of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority says his board is not yet in the loop when it comes to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's plans for state legislation that could lead to big changes for the airport.

"We have so much going on here, so we would like to keep the focus where we are," said Airport Authority President Nathaniel Williams on Monday. "We would rather not have outside intervention right now. We have a deadline of 2013 and that's where our focus is right now."

The Gary airport is in the midst of a $153 million expansion project and the Federal Aviation Administration has set a deadline of Sept. 30, 2013, for getting the work done.

On Friday, Mayor Freeman-Wilson revealed discussions by city officials on submitting a "global" bill for economic development for consideration in this session of the Indiana General Assembly. The bill would seek support for Gary/Chicago International Airport, an intermodal cargo port, and a teaching hospital and trauma center. The legislation may be piggybacked on a land-based casino bill.

Freeman-Wilson said all options are being examined, including stipulating a "relationship" between the Gary airport and the Indianapolis Airport Authority. The Gary airport is currently tied to the Chicago/Gary International Airport Authority.

The influential newsletter Indiana Legislative Insight last week carried a report the idea of the legislation is to increase support for the Gary airport downstate, perhaps by placing it under the aegis of the the Indianapolis Airport Authority.

Freeman-Wilson said "regionalism" for the seven-member Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority that runs the Gary airport also is under consideration, but she stopped short of saying the city would give up its majority on the board.

On Monday, Williams said it is up to the city's executive office holders and local legislators to start discussions on the bill. But he reiterated the authority does not want to be distracted at this time because of the demands that come with the "monstrous" task of the expansion project.

At the regular meeting of the airport authority on Monday, Williams was re-elected as president. Authority Vice President Rev. Marion Johnson Jr. and board Secretary Ross Amundson also were re-elected to their posts for 2012.

Plans remain on track to hold three bid openings for expansion projects this month, including one to clear land for the expansion of the runway itself which will take it to a length of 8,900 feet, Project Manager Scott Wheeler told authority members in his regular report.

Bids for constructing a vehicle overpass for railroad tracks on Airport Road, a project estimated to cost $22.9 million, will be opened Jan. 12, Wheeler said. Bids for the land-clearing and grading project will be opened Jan. 17. Bids for demolishing buildings at the fomer Illini State Trucking depot will be opened Jan. 19.

Winning bids should be determined in time for the authority to award contracts for all three jobs at its Jan. 23 meeting, Wheeler said.



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