Gary Airport Wants to Land Money

The Gary/Chicago International Airport is preparing to borrow up to $35 million as early as this summer to launch its runway expansion project.

On Wednesday, the airport authority board voted to renew its contract for financial advisory services with Scott-Balice Strategies. The Chicago firm will be paid up to $75,000 for its work this year.

Scott-Balice will take care of getting the airport the best deal possible in negotiations with underwriters, loan providers and other financial institutions, according to Paul Karas, airport director.

The airport authority has a number of options in borrowing money, including issuing bonds or borrowing directly from banks.

Late last year, the airport secured $57.8 million in Federal Aviation Administration funds for the project, which will add almost 2,000 feet to the northwest end of the airport's main runway.

A major part of the project will be the moving of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad tracks, which lie 130 feet from the end of the runway. That work must take place before the runway can be lengthened.

The FAA money will come to the airport in installments of $6 million per year through 2015. The airport also will get $20 million out of the $3.8 billion the state is getting for its lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

Board member William Staehle wanted to know where the money to pay Scott-Balice will come from. Karas told him so far, much of the money used to pay the firm has come out of the airport's compact with the city of Chicago.

Last year, the city of Chicago forked over $700,000 to the Gary airport under terms of the compact.

Scott-Balice is a full-service financial advisory firm. It also is advising the Regional Transportation Authority on financing alternatives. The RTA oversees the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra Commuter Rail and Pace Suburban Bus.

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