Will board member says state should scale down planned airport
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com August 9, 2012 2:52PM
Updated: September 11, 2012 6:16AM
JOLIET — Will County Board member Cory Singer said Thursday that the county should stop planning for a commercial “monstrosity” of an airport near Peotone and, instead, should switch gears and plan for a streamlined, one-runway freight airport.
Also, Singer, R-Frankfort, recommended the state stop buying land for the larger South Suburban Airport project, and he urged the county to drop southern Cook and Kankakee counties from its business-labor planning coalition.
The only reason Will County included the adjacent counties was to counter a larger airport planning group created by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-2nd., several years ago, Singer said.
“It should be about what’s best for Will County,” Singer said during a county board executive committee meeting.
Now, Singer says, Jackson’s project is falling apart because the congressman is on an extended medical leave and his airport developer, Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, is embroiled in international controversy because of alleged ties to Moammar Gadhafi.
In addition to recommending the smaller freight airport, Singer also criticized County Executive Larry Walsh for not accomplishing much on the airport during his almost eight years in office and for having mostly private meetings with state officials.
Singer is challenging Walsh for his job in the November election.
“This looks like the politics of yesterday,” Singer said. “ ... We don’t have a clue what in the world is being discussed.”
Nick Palmer, Walsh’s chief of staff, accused Singer of playing politics because Singer is challenging Democrat Walsh in the November election.
“You talk about politics,” Palmer said to Singer. “We all know what season this is.”
Palmer said Walsh, who was busy talking about commerce and grain exports with the U.S. undersecretary of agriculture on Thursday, will meet with Illinois Director of Transportation Ann Schneider on Aug. 28 in Chicago to discuss the airport.
Will County Board Chairman Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, has been invited to the meeting, Palmer added.
“We’re working together to protect the interests of Will County,” Palmer said.
Singer denied that his criticisms were political. He said his main proposal — to downsize the airport project — is based on changes in the way Americans are buying products.
More people are purchasing items online, and a freight airport financed by a company similar to Amazon.com makes more sense, Singer said. Will County could be the e-commerce capital of the country, he said.
Moustis, who also serves as chairman of the executive committee, said committee members could explore Singer’s idea and the county’s airport strategy in the future.
Moustis said he still believes a commercial passenger airport is the way to go because a freight-only airport would not be viable.
“I don’t think the numbers would work,” he said.
As for Walsh’s “noninclusive” airport planning style, Moustis said he would prefer a more open process but it’s Walsh’s choice because the county board gave the executive authority to negotiate on behalf of the project years ago.
By not including more people, “He’s put it more on his shoulders,” Moustis said.