Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gary airport authority hears about positive changes: Gary/Chicago International Airport (KGYY), Gary, Indiana

GARY | Members of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority heard a series of reports about finances, new maintenance programs and improved communications during Thursday’s meeting, and gave their approval to the news.

Board members also met the airport’s new chief financial officer William Outlar, of Gary, who joined the staff on Tuesday, and Hank Mook, the interim deputy general manager. Both were hired by AVPorts, the Gary Chicago International Airport’s new private operator, which has a 10-year contract to manage all airport operations.

Airport authority attorney Lee I. Lane updated the board on continued financing of the $32 million runway project. An application has been made to the Indiana Finance Authority, which initiated a new program for regional airports to provide low interest bonds with approximately 3 percent interest rates, Lane said.

The airport authority board will need to adopt an ordinance at its next meeting allowing this kind of financing to be used, she said.

The rest of the aviation bond financing will be open for bidding soon, Lane said.

In addition, the board heard that an application for continued Passenger Facility Charge funding is being prepared to submission to the Chicago Compact, which includes the Gary, Midway and O’Hare airports. The Gary airport receives about $2.5 million per year from those fees.

In total, $11.5 million of PFC funds collected by the Gary airport will be used for rehabilitation projects such as runway and apron rehabilitation over the next three to five years, said Dan Vicari, in-house project manager for the runway project. Vicari was substituting at Thursday’s meeting for Gary airport Interim Director B.R. Lane.

Allison Bergman, a partner in the Hardwick Law Firm based in Kansas City, told the board that recent face-to-face meetings with representatives of both CSX and CN railroads were “productive” and that weekly phone conversations are being scheduled. Negotiations with the railroads is an important step in the expansion project at the airport.

Improved communications, safety and maintenance have also been part of AVPorts’ airport management at the Gary airport, said Steve Ferguson, who is the assistant aviation director at the Westchester Airport in White Plains, NY.

“Our No. 1 goal has been to enhance the safety culture at the Gary airport and we have made very good strides,” Ferguson said.

Those safety changes have included training for maintenance personnel by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Now all maintenance workers are wearing uniforms, and carrying their personal protective equipment and no one is wearing sneakers,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said AVPorts is sharing best practices used at other airports, primarily in the eastern U.S., for the Gary airport.

These include airport tenant consortium meetings, which will now be held at 11 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month, and the initiation next week of a new airport bulletin system to notify tenants about any runway closures or other maintenance programs that could limit runway access.

“It really is a new day at the Gary airport,” said board member James Cooper. “I’m excited for our employees to be part of an aviation family rather than an island onto itself.”


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