Senator proposes South Suburban Airport Authority

2012-10-01T16:00:00Z 2012-10-01T18:12:19Z Senator proposes South Suburban Airport AuthorityGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
October 01, 2012 4:00 pm  • 

SOUTH HOLLAND | Members of a commission aimed at building an airport in rural Will County support a proposal by state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, creating a South Suburban Airport Authority to oversee its construction.

The Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission met Monday with officials hearing a report about the bill that Hutchinson says she plans to sponsor in the Illinois General Assembly, either during the veto session beginning Nov. 27 or during the spring.

“It's going to depend on how fast people can come together and work at this stage,” Hutchinson said, adding she'd prefer to have the measure considered during the veto session. She was not present at the commission meeting, held at the South Holland Village Hall.

Commission members indicated they would be willing to meet with area legislators at the end of the month to try to persuade them to back Hutchinson's bill, and they are considering meetings in mid-October with local officials.

“We're at a precipice. If we don’t do something right now, we'll fall behind,” said Don De Graff, village president of South Holland and a commission member.

The commission heard a report from Rick Bryant, their executive director and chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., about Hutchinson's bill that would create a South Suburban Airport Authority to oversee construction and help determine any development done near the airport.

“We want to have things built near the airport that enhance it, not conflict with it,” Bryant said.

Hutchinson’s bill, for now, calls for the authority to have nine members, four of whom would be named by the Will County executive and one by the Kankakee County Board chairman.

Another member would be picked by consensus of the village presidents of municipalities at the eastern end of Will County near the proposed airport site in Peotone Township, and one member would be picked by the Cook County committeemen of townships adjacent to Will County.

The two remaining members would be picked by the Illinois governor.

But these details are open to negotiation, as Hutchinson said she's willing to consider other ideas if it brings people together behind an airport.

“Nothing is written in stone as of yet,” she said, adding she thinks the issue of a third airport for the Chicago area has gone on too long. “It is a 40-year-old fight, and I just turned 39,” Hutchinson said.

Just last week, Illinois Department of Transportation officials submitted a plan to the Federal Aviation Administration showing where structures would be built surrounding a main runway that would be parallel to, and south of, Eagle Creek Road.

But disagreements over who should control an airport, along with land acquisition, have stalled the project in recent years.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Hutchinson said, adding later, “I want to try to bring people together.”

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