GARY | The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority on Monday hired Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's chief of staff as airport interim director on a 7-0 vote.
B.R. Lane, a key member of the mayor's City Hall team, won the position 10 days after the Airport Authority deadlocked 3-3 on her nomination.
"For over one year, B.R. has been actively engaged with all parties at the local, state and federal level regarding airport issues," said Airport Authority Chairman Thomas Collins Sr. "And she shares our major objectives, which are, No. 1, complete the runway expansion project and, No. 2, develop sustainable sources of revenue for the airport."
Lane will give up her job at City Hall, said Freeman-Wilson shortly after the appointment. That job pays Lane $99,000 per year.
Collins said Lane will receive a salary for the airport job commensurate with what's contained in the airport budget. Former interim Airport Director Steve Landry was paid $10,000 per month.
Freeman-Wilson stayed at Monday's meeting until Lane won the appointment. Interviewed before leaving the airport administration building, she said Lane already has developed crucial relationships with key stakeholders such as congressional representatives and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.
The mayor said Lane's lack of professional aviation experience should not be a hindrance.
"You can always get someone who understands aviation," Freeman-Wilson said. "We have people here who can do that. But as far as getting us off the dime and moving forward on the airport expansion, that's what we need now."
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Collins said he did not know the status of a search mounted by ADK Executive Search, of Atlantic Beach, Fla., for a new airport director. That firm was hired in April at a cost of $30,000 to do a nationwide search for a new airport director.
The Airport Authority also started to learn and deal with some of the costs associated with the delay in the airport's $166 million expansion project.
The authority approved amending the contract for its expansion project manager by a 7-0 vote. The vote will result in AECOM Technologies, of Los Angeles, being paid up to $1.3 million for assessing pollution on airport property and forming plans for cleanup.
AECOM already is under contract with the airport for $3.1 million for managing the expansion project. AECOM project manager John Lukas explained the original contract did not call for environmental services, which were assigned to another firm.
AECOM environmental specialist Bill Bow said if environmental regulators insist on full closure of one former Superfund site in the path of the new runway, the bill could run more than $3 million more. Cleaning up other property to FAA standards could cost millions of dollars more.
The authority also approved a $1.2 million contract with the engineering firm NGC for additional design services connected to the expansion.
In other action, the board approved the extension of the Boeing Corp. hangar lease through August 2016. Boeing pays the airport $32,650 per month.
The board also approved a plan developed by Ivy Tech Community College and Popovich Aviation to bring a Boeing 737-400 to the airport for training criminal justice students and law enforcement professionals. The college and Popovich will pay standard ground lease rent for stationing the airplane outside just east of the terminal.