Gary airport's new private operator cuts staff

2014-05-02T19:00:00Z 2014-05-03T11:35:04Z Gary airport's new private operator cuts staffKeith Benman, (219) 933-3326

Gary/Chicago International Airport's deputy director and two other employees are being laid off just weeks after city officials promised the new public-private partnership there would create more jobs for Gary residents.

Deputy Director Bob Gyurko, a Gary resident, confirmed Friday he is one of those being let go. He said he and two other employees were told they would not be picked up by AvPorts, which takes over all airport operations May 16.

In mid-April, new airport private operator AvPorts interviewed all airport employees. At the time, AvPorts' newly hired interim airport manager Duncan Henderson said no decisions had been made on how many employees were needed to staff the airport, which had 18 employees.

AvPorts said it had conducted a thorough review of existing conditions and resources to help realize the airport's potential, in a statement released Friday. It did not give out any information on the layoffs. The airport issued a similar statement.

AvPorts in January inked a 10-year deal to manage all airport operations. Its parent company, Aviation Facilities Co. Inc., known as AFCO, signed a 40-year deal to develop airport real estate.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson on Friday said AvPorts' decision not to hire some of the airport's existing employees was a personnel decision made by the company and she could not get into any details.

"But I'm confident in the care we've placed in AFCO/AvPorts to manage the airport, and I'm comfortable with their personnel decisions," Freeman-Wilson said. "And I'm confident as additional decisions are made there will be opportunities for Gary residents."

The mayor assisted airport officials in conducting public forums on the airport's public-private partnership in each Gary council district during April. They repeatedly assured citizens attending that the new arrangement would provide numerous job opportunities for Gary residents.

Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis, the airport's longest-serving tenant, reacted angrily to the terminations of the three employees on Friday. He said the two maintenance employees let go are also Gary residents.

"It's a big loss," Davis said. "They are people who know how to get things done. Who's going to replace these people? If the big issue is always about hiring Gary people, well how come they just fired three of them?"

Notice of the layoffs comes three days after the Gary Redevelopment Commission voted to pay $817,500 to three airport consultants who advised on the privatization. AFCO had refused to pick up their bill during negotiations and the airport authority also did not want to pay it.

Gyurko said he and the two other employees let go will continue to be paid by the airport authority through May 16. They will then receive two weeks severance pay.

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