Gary airport authority may fight changes

2013-01-28T12:41:00Z 2013-01-29T11:30:15Z Gary airport authority may fight changesKeith Benman, (219) 933-3326
January 28, 2013 12:41 pm  • 

The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority may consider fighting a proposed state Senate bill that would take away majority control from the city of Gary by handing five authority appointments to the governor.

"We need a lobbyist to go down and work on our behalf, because if we don't have a lobbyist on our behalf, this will become Indiana airport and not Gary/Chicago International Airport," authority vice president the Rev. Marion Johnson said at Monday's regular authority meeting at the airport.

Though the authority board did not take action on his proposal Monday, Johnson said other members are concerned and are considering his proposal to make a full board response to the bill.

Under Senate Bill 585 as introduced by state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, the Gary Airport Authority Board would be expanded to 11 members from its current seven.

The mayor of Gary would retain his or her right to appoint four members, but the governor would get five appointments. Lake and Porter County executive bodies would continue to appoint one member each, as they do now.

When asked about the issue after the meeting, new authority member David Bochnowski said special legislation targeting just one airport authority as Senate Bill 585 does appears to be without precedent in Indiana. He said it may well raise concerns at other airport authorities.

"The control of the airport needs to be regionally based; it needs to be based here in Northwest Indiana," Bochnowski said.

Also at its meeting Monday, the airport authority approved several change orders for its $166 million expansion project.

A change order of $352,643 was approved for the Phase I contract awarded to Dyer Construction for clearing land for the main runway extension. The authority also approved a $23,700 change order for the contract awarded to Dyer Construction for compacting and earthwork for rail relocation north of the airport.

The authority also approved spending $165,000 to buy ties and rails for rail crossovers to be built north and south of the airport. AECOM Project Manager Scott Wheeler explained buying the rails and ties would not increase the total cost of the project to the airport because it would have had to pay the same amount to railroads if the railroads bought the materials themselves.

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