Gary Airport Authority chairman to resign

2014-01-03T13:35:00Z 2014-01-04T13:28:09Z Gary Airport Authority chairman to resignBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

The chairman of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority has tendered his resignation to Gov. Mike Pence, who appointed him to the post four months ago when the board was replaced under state reform legislation.

Tom Collins Sr. said Friday he is finding it difficult to devote the time necessary to his duties as both airport chairman and as CEO of Luke Oil Co., which has been expanding rapidly.

"I feel the airport is really moving in a positive direction right now and really needs someone who can give it the time and attention it deserves," Collins said.

Pence has accepted Collins' resignation, which will be effective Jan. 26 as per his letter, Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault said. The governor plans to have a new chairman appointed by that date.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she is confident Pence will expeditiously appoint someone with the same thoughtfulness and business expertise Collins brought to the board.

The Jan. 26 effective date for Collins resignation means he would not be able to participate in the final vote on a 40-year privatization deal with Aviation Facilities Co. Inc., or AFCO, of Dulles, Va. The deal would require AFCO to bring $25 million in investment to the airport in the next three years.

The vote is expected to take place at the authority's Jan. 27 meeting, as an ordinance and public hearing are needed before passage.

Freeman-Wilson said she thought there was no reason to delay that vote, as she is confident the new chairman can quickly be brought up to speed on airport issues.

Collins cast the lone dissenting vote on Dec. 23 when the authority by a 5-1 margin approved the terms for the deal.

After that vote, Collins said his main concern revolved around the fact AFCO does not have to come up with a long-term plan for developing the airport until 12 months after the authority approves the deal.

On Friday, Collins said he thought the airport needed to seriously consider the opportunities afforded by a public-private partnership like that being forged with AFCO. But he said he still has reservations about the urgency with which the current deal is being pursued.

Luke Oil, where Collins is CEO, is best known to the public for its chain of Luke Oil gas stations throughout the region. It is also a major wholesale distributor of petroleum products, delivering about 300 million gallons annually though its network of retail stations, dealers, fuel distributors, and customers.

Under reform legislation proposed in the last session of the Indiana General Assembly, the Airport Authority's chairman was to have been an appointee of the governor and given "super-majority" status, meaning he could essentially veto any board action.

The legislation in its final form as passed by the General Assembly and signed by Pence assigned the governor the right to appoint the authority's chairman, but stripped the post of its super-majority powers.

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