Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Officers begin hostage rescue training at Gary/Chicago International Airport (KGYY)

  Anna Ortiz, The Times
 A total of 27 officers from Indiana, Illinois and Michigan trained Wednesday with the Indiana SWAT Officers Association on Wednesday at Gary Airport. 

GARY | Fourteen officers ran from the wing of the Bowing 737 aircraft through the plane’s emergency doors, sweeping through the narrow aisles, their firearms at the ready.

However this time, the officers were only training for a threat, and not actually facing one.

A total of 27 officers from 11 agencies in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois trained with the Indiana SWAT Officers Association on Wednesday at the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

The officers trained for a hostage rescue situation on an airplane, led by retired FBI SWAT team leader Chuck Smith. He said airplanes, trains and buses can be potential magnets for danger.

“Well, they are certainly targets for attack by terrorists or criminals, because it’s a large concentration of people that can be used as hostages or be victims, but it’s a difficult situation for police to handle,” Smith said.

Tony Emanuele, maritime enforcement specialist, organized the event for the Indiana SWAT Officers Association, which is a statewide training organization for officers and military members. On Thursday, they will be going into their second day of training for emergency situations on a South Shore train and a bus in Gary.

Smith guided the officers through entering the emergency doors on the planes, safely sweeping through the aircraft and taking down the person causing the threat. He said that being in such a confined space potentially packed with people is a big challenge for officers.

Joe Ferrantella, Ivy Tech coordinator of emergency response training in Valparaiso, took a group of students to be a part of the training. This was his sixth class he has had in the airplane at the Sage Popovich hanger.

The officers trained on an aircraft donated by the Sage Popovich Group for educational use.

“This plane is exclusive to being used for emergency response training,” Ferrantella said. “It makes for the most realistic experience possible.”

The students observed the training and played as passengers and potential threats on the aircraft.

“At first I was nervous, after sitting through it, it gets your adrenaline running,” said Megan Layton, an Ivy Tech Valparaiso freshman criminal justice major. “To watch them maneuver up and down the aisle, it’s cool how quick they all caught on.”

Illinois Metra Police and special operation officers Ruben Gomez and Danny Zapato said for them, training on actual vehicles are a big plus for them.

“We can never get enough training,” Zapato said. “It’s hands on, we are actually getting in there with our weapons. It’s the best training we can get. We can sit in class and watch videos all we want, but it’s not the same.”

These situations may not be common, but Smith said it’s important to be prepared.

“Even if it’s a rare or unlikely situation, the more exposure the better,” Smith said.

Emanuele, also a Chesterton police officer, said there are more events to come for the Indiana SWAT Officers Association, such as training in active shooter situations in a school.

Emanuele said officers and military members can pay a year’s membership of $10 and then attend training events like these at no cost.

“Honestly I think (the program) is going to get bigger,” Emanuele said. “A big problem for police training is the cost.”

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Final city cost for Cleveland Regional Jetport landing at $7.25M

After more than 18 months in operation, financial loose ends remain for the Cleveland Regional Jetport and the board that oversees it, the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority.

Among those loose ends is the handling of the city’s final share of the price tag — $7.25 million.

The original plan was for the city’s portion of the $42.32 million facility to come from the sale of Hardwick Field, but that relied upon receiving a hefty price for the old airport property, which failed to materialize.

The Airport Authority realized $1.03 million from the sale of Hardwick Field, leaving roughly $5 million to be financed on the airport itself. A bond issue for $4.3 million and $700,000 from the city general fund will cover that amount.

The $2.2 million terminal building received only $700,000 in state and federal money. The rest was to be raised from private donations. The needed pledges fell short. Only $281,400 was raised and could be paid over three years by donors. Fundraising costs were more than $50,000. There is no ongoing fundraising campaign for the terminal.

A bond issue for the terminal has $1.35 million remaining on the principal balance, leaving the local total for both the terminal and airport at $6.35 million after deducting the proceeds from the sale of the former airport property.

Airport Authority member Verrill Norwood said the governing body needs to raise $1.5 million to cover the difference in cost between what the terminal project received from grants and what was ultimately spent on the terminal.

“I guess that’s the one thing we are not proud of ... that we didn’t get the $1.5 million,” Norwood said.

The Airport Authority received input for the terminal from its Terminal Design Committee, a consultant and fixed base operator Crystal Air. The committee visited other municipal airports for inspiration. The Airport Authority approved the suggestions of the design committee.

A restaurant area, rental cars and meeting facilities were main elements suggested for inclusion. The restaurant area did not become a reality, but the others did, according to Norwood.

A committee headed by Airport Authority chair Lou Patten was tasked with raising the money for the terminal.

“We haven’t had reports from that group in a long time,” Norwood said. “There was a group to outfit and design the terminal and then there was a group that was put together to raise money.”

That committee has not met for at least a year, according to Patten.

Patten said the committee had focused on having a good design for the terminal and had a list of potential donors.

“The director, part of his job is to market the airport and fund raise,” Norwood said. “I don’t get involved in that.”

Patten said he felt the committee would not meet again. Instead, according to Patten, Mark Fidler, Jetport director of operations, will be spearheading efforts to “bring in some additional funding.”

“We are going to try to refocus on that area,” Patten said.

Initial fundraising came mostly through opportunities to have the donor’s name on an item inside the terminal, such as the waterfall.

“It was a three-year pledge. You could choose to pay over three years,” Norwood said.

Kristi Powers, city public works support services manager, said she has received $179,400 of the $281,400 pledged.

“I have a total of 11 donors,” Powers said. “One donor who had originally pledged $30,000 later withdrew the planned donation. Most of the donors have broken their pledge up into annual payments.”

These annual payments are scheduled through June 1, 2017.

Now, local companies have the opportunity to advertise on digital screens at the Jetport as a way to support reaching the fundraising goal.

The budget for the Cleveland Regional Jetport is part of the city of Cleveland’s general fund.

City finance director Shawn McKay said the interest rate on the $4.3 million borrowed for the Jetport is 2.64 percent on the fixed-rate bond.

The old airfield sold for $1.03 million, rather than the appraised $1.78 million, leaving about $700,000 remaining to cover the Jetport. This money came out of the city’s general fund budget.

McKay said payments on the bond issue will come from the debt service fund.

“There are various places that we fund that (debt service) from depending on what particular project it is, but there is a transfer every year from the general fund to the debt service fund,” McKay said.

In spite of Hardwick Field being operated by the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority, the shortfall in funds from its sale must be offset by the city and not the Airport Authority.

A separate bond issue has been authorized to cover the shortfall in fundraising for the terminal building, which was above the amount covered by a grant. The amount received in pledges covered the $136,000 debt service payment for the first year. McKay said this was a variable rate bond with the interest rate locked in for five years. How the rate changes after that is determined by the market, McKay said. The loan’s maturity date is May 2027.

“The terminal (bond) is at a variable rate based on the SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Municipal) index plus 0.55 basis points. We budget this at 4 percent,” McKay said.

The bond was issued through the Tennessee Municipal Bond fund.

“As operations grow out there (at the Jetport) it’s very likely that they may be able to fund the payments through operations money,” McKay explained. “We are one year under our belt and there is still a lot of demand for hangar space, grounds receipts and things of that nature. Operations continue to grow.”

He added, “They are operating on a balanced budget this year, so incomes match their expenses. I think having that Jetport there is key to having the businesses and industries that we have attracted, and it is going to play a key role in (the future).”

The Jetport’s current approved budget totals $1.07 million.

The majority of the revenue comes from fuel sales that are projected to be $898,000. The remaining revenue is generated from ramp fees, hangar rental, land rental and other service-based income.

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