LAWRENCEVILLE -- Commissioners are disappointed in the quick end to an airport citizens review committee, which voted this week to dissolve two months into deliberations.
"I'm startled," Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said of Tuesday's sequence of events, where the recommending body took up a resolution asking for environmental and economic studies into possible airport expansions but said there was no more work to complete without it. "I was visualizing the committee in place for a much lengthier time than this."
Nash said she understood the frustration of the group in wanting independent consultants to look at the potential impact of commercial service at what is now a small general aviation airfield.
But since she opposes opening Briscoe Field to commercial flights, she isn't sure she wants to pay the expense.
Commissioners Lynette Howard and Mike Beaudreau agreed that they were not convinced the studies should be conducted before proposals to take over the Gwinnett County Airport are due in February, but Commissioner John Heard said the county could modify its request for proposals to have any successful bidder reimburse the county for the expense of the reports.
While Heard also opposes the comemrcialization, he said the county could bear the expense if it decides against privatization.
"They should get the funding they need to make adequate recommendations, and the Board of Commissioners should have the information before we make such a huge decision for this community," he said.
Howard said the studies may not be relevant to the specific proposals that come in.
"I haven't had anybody convince me that we should spend money on something we may not even do," she said. "We just have to be smart about how we spend the money."
Howard said she thought the citizens committee would gain information in the next few months and then lend an "educated eye" to the proposals submitted.
"I don't understand how they could disband and how that is going to help," she said. "I thought all of this would bring clarity to it, and it's actually made it a lot more muddy."
While all citizens board members seemed to agree on the need for the studies, the committee was tied on the issue of whether to dissolve. The tie was broken by the group's chairman, Tip Cape, who said he was willing to reconvene once the study results are in.
Few were sure if the group could dissolve itself. Likely, commissioners would have to do that.
The resolution also recommended county officials bring customs services to the airport and against privatizing operations of Briscoe if it remains a general aviation facility.
Beaudreau and Howard both said the studies could be engaged after proposals are opened but before a private contractor is selected for the county.
"It's still kind of a wait and see game," Beaudreau said, adding that he had not heard about the group's deliberations yet. "I guess the majority of the committee thinks they have gotten their work done. ... It's too early yet. I've got to find out what the different arguments are."
A phone call to Commissioner Shirley Lasseter was not returned Wednesday.
Most of all, Nash said, the end to the study group does not fulfill a desire to create an open, transparent and give people the ability to sound off on the issue.
"My preference would be they continue their work and meet regularly on an ongoing basis," she said. "There is work to be done outside the studies or the (request for proposals). I think there is value in that, getting information before the public."