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Commissioners surprised by airport move, want work to continue

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."

Comments

Falco 3 years ago

Privatizing the airport but keeping it general aviation never made any sense because there is no money in it. Why would the county ever want to privatize the airport if there was no profit? And if there's no profit, no investor will upgrade the facilities there, either.

A small airport with limited commercial service will bring in new economic growth and new jobs to Gwinnett. It's time to move forward!

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R 2 years, 12 months ago

Of course there could be money in general Aviation or the county couldn’t have been running a surplus as it is today… A gentle reminder, those operations were established long before the current “gang of five” arrived on the scene. There may be ways to enhance operations profitably, but the push for the “unknown plan” from the “unknown vendor” and its three key points (all which have been contested endlessly to date) just keeps coming back up like a ballpark frank induced case of heartburn, to be experienced again and again and again.

Since we are in reality discussing a location where so many people actually live, a newly created business entity’s desire to take us “where no man has gone before” approach that works well in science fiction may not translate into real world success. After all, the higher the claimed returns, the higher the risk...

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Cleanupguy 3 years ago

I am surprised that the commissioners are surprised by this. There was insufficient information provided to the panel to evaluate, and further useless public thumb twiddling would have benefitted no one. What input can the public possibly provide (which will be ignored anyway) in the absence of an actual whatcha call plan? Of course, Lasseter is a useless sock puppet without her handler Bannister around (I am in her District and she has yet to respond to ANYTHING), similar situation with old Bannister Buddy Heard, and Howard came to office without benefit of any clues (she has zero interest in anything outside of her neighborhood and should have should have instead set her sights on being the PTC Mayor). The other two on the BOC seem to be floundering on the best of days. For a group that claims to generally be opposed to commercialization, they sure are pushing this hard. Maybe it’s time to just shovel some dirt over it and let it go quietly.

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mickey 3 years ago

Oh, okay, lets open proposals, then do a study and let the winning proposer pay for it. Am I the only one who realizes how stupid this is. Obviously the County is not ready for this. Move on to solid important things. My mother always said "when in doubt, do without".

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Falco 2 years, 12 months ago

It's actually not in doubt. It's clear to everyone except a few hundred demagogues that this would be a great benefit to Gwinnett County.

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R 2 years, 12 months ago

THAT It sure isn't clear to those who actually read prospectus and the fine print we have been given to date. You can dream but it isn't reality.

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Cleanupguy 3 years ago

The pro-commercialization crowd is indeed anxious to invest, with their investments of course to be guaranteed by Gwinnett taxpayers. The FAA (Google “Atlanta Metropolitan Aviation Capacity Study Phase II”) backed a study that put the cost of development at $2.223 billion (yes, that’s with a “B”) – not terribly feasible. I believe that commercialization is a “digital decision” – either all the way or none, which looks like a definite “none” to me.

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Falco 2 years, 12 months ago

Specifically, how are the investments guaranteed by Gwinnett taxpayers? After all, if the investor/operator pays cash for the upgrades, and the Agreement signed between an operator and the County specifically states that the county will assume no risk (which is the proposal that has been made), then how do taxpayers assume risk?

Seems like the worst case scenario is that if the business goes under, the county simply gets back a greatly improved airport with a terminal, better runway, and other upgrades.

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R 2 years, 12 months ago

NOT true at all. IMG has confirmed twice in public that Gwinnett would have to maintain the level of service in place at the time of private operator failure. Which means we get to OPERATE the thing on tax dollars.

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Karl 2 years, 12 months ago

Incorrect R.

The only obligation for the county if the private operator goes bust is to keep the airport open as a general aviation airport. Keeping it open for scheduled service is neither required not expected if that scenario happens. Falco is correct, you are not. Sorry to burst your fantasy bubble. And another thing, IMG never said what you are asserting they said. Not once and not twice. You are telling tall tales.

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Karl 2 years, 12 months ago

R--

You are incorrect. The only obligation the county would have if the private firm goes bust is to keep the airport operating as a general aviaiton airport. It has no obligation to keep it open for scheduled service. It is neither required nor expected to do that, but merely to keep it at the same level of service for general aviation that it now is. IMG never said that it must stay open for scheduled service. They never said it once and they never said it twice. You are telling tall tales.

Again, there is no obligation or requirement of the county to maintain the airport for scheduled service if the private operator bails out, merely to keep it open for general aviation, just as it now is.

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Karl 2 years, 12 months ago

You are incorrect, R. IMG NEVER said that once, let alone twice. The only obligation the county would have if the private operator went bust would be to keep the airport open for general aviation, just as it is now. There is absolutely NO requirement, or even expectation, that the county would be obligated to keep running it with scheduled service. Falco is correct. You are not. Please quit telling tall tales.

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Karl 2 years, 12 months ago

You are incorrect R. The only obligation the county would have if the private operator went bust is to continue to keep the airport open as a GENERAL AVIATION airport, just as it is now. There is NO requirement, nor is there any expectation, for the county to continue operating the airport for scheduled service if that happens. Falco is correct in what he/she is saying above.

IMG never said what you assert they said even once, let alone twice. Please stop telling your tall tales in hopes that your misinformation about the actual requirements sway the uninformed.

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 12 months ago

Given that there is no binding written actionable plan in place, no assumptions regarding the financial committments can be made without benefit of misleading comments like the above. Still wondering what investment group has the TWO BILLION that the FAA sposnsored study noted this will take to commit. Also, this type of plan has been successful exactly nowhere ever, but what the heck, vested interests full steam ahead.

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ThomasJefferson 2 years, 12 months ago

Ok, here it is. The FAA regulations regarding this process: http://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_compliance/privatization/media/lzu_privatization_factsheet.pdf

Under "Conditions for Granting" it cites Title 40 of the United States Code Section 47134, which requires "[t]he public operator also must provide a plan for continued operation of the airport in case of bankruptcy or other defaults of the private operator."

This federal requirement supersedes any "agreement" that the county assumes no risk and means the the citizens are liable if the private operator fails. The private contractor gets to keep any profit and we have to pay the bills.

Only one other airport in the country has privatized under this program since 1996. The contractor went bankrupt within a few years and the local government was required to repurchase the airport. Why has no other government in the country except Gwinnett though this program is a good idea since?

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BevL 2 years, 12 months ago

I sat in the audience at this meeting in stunned silence and it was difficult not to speak up in outrage. The BOC should tell those who voted for the desolution of the Citizens Review Committee that they can be excused from this committee. The ones who wanted to continue the process should be allowed to do so. The ones who leave should be replaced by the Commissioners who appointed them. Maybe this time they can find some citizens who do not have their own agenda and will work toward a recommendation to the BOC on this important issue. The audience of concerned citizens felt totally abandoned last Tuesday..

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MissDaisyCook 2 years, 12 months ago

The ones that want to continue the committee are all the "anti" crowd. They saw the committee as their soap box to oppose everything. They never were open minded about the purpose of the committee. Also, those folk always in attendance have always been the Lawrenceville crowd opposed to the airport in general because they live in the area; they would love to see the airport disappear all together. Those members on the the committe that had already made up their mind should have been honest, and refused to serve since their minds were fixed. They never had the welfare of the entire Gwinnett County community in consideration.

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CD 2 years, 12 months ago

I would opine that 500,000 people in a 10 mile radius of the airport should be represented and their thoughts should be considered. I would venture a guess the vast majority of the 500,000 are opposed and to refer to them as the "Lawrenceville crowd" is not exactly accurate. Personally, show me the economic study that considers Briscoe specifically and where that study shows that in all likelihood the net economic impact would at least be slightly positive. I've yet to see it. Perhaps because there is no such study? If such a study shows that the 500,000 people should forgo quality of life and sit atop a home that will decrease in value further, but that sacrifice will be more than offset by job growth, etc. so be it. Bring the study on. But there is no study, but only non-substantiated hype.

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R 2 years, 12 months ago

The civilian attendees have not all been from the Lawrenceville area, but the outlying areas of the county too. Anyone who really attended these sessions knows this. The continual spewing of this " false information" that opposition is only located in a small area, reveals the total lack logical review and discredits the pro-expasion position. As to the appointment of open minds, the members who voted to close this out were all publicly FOR expansion and clearly stated so in their own words from the start. So Miss daisy, per your position - this exercise is completely null and void on its face.

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Karl 2 years, 12 months ago

MissDaisyCook--

You are so correct with your description of the members of the committee that were 'anti's'.

BevL--

You only want the committee to be made up of folks who already are predisposed to vote NO on the privatization and commercialization of the airport. You don't want any one who has not taken a stance one way or the other and you certainly don't want anyone who is for the commercialization. You only want it to be filled with the NO crowd. You are transparent in your desire.

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 12 months ago

Ooooops you missed one - just Reviewed R's comment, and he was correct: "As to the appointment of open minds, the members who voted to close this out were all publicly FOR expansion and clearly stated so in their own words from the start."

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BevL 2 years, 12 months ago

Karl - You are totally correct - I am one of those who is against commercialization of the airport. To say those on the committee who are against the commercialization of Briscoe are the only ones on the comittee predisposed in their opinion is truly laughable. The one who was the loudest in claiming to have "No dog in this fight" was the strongest proponent of commercialization on the committee.

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mikekorom 2 years, 12 months ago

If you were there you would know that the one's that wanted to continue the committee were interested in continuing to do what they were asked and make a recommendation to the BOC. The one's that proposed to dissolve the committee have a vested interest such as owning an aviation insurance agency, T Hangars, property, etc...

I'm certain they have the taxpayers' best interest in mind.

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Falco 2 years, 12 months ago

The citizens committee and the public both have concluded that this county would greatly benefit by allowing commercial scheduled service at Briscoe, regardless of whoever wins the RFP.

In a time of job losses and property value losses, isn't it time to have a major economic development initiative if it can be structured where the taxpayers don't have to pay for it or guarantee anything?

Because that's what has been proposed by the companies which are proposing to do the job.

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R 2 years, 12 months ago

This position is FALSE and regardless of how many times you post this fiction that this county would greatly benefit , it will be challenged. Falco, the taxpayers WILL be required to support this puppy - free money only exists IF you can extract it from government and in this specific case from the citizens of Gwinnett county. Please read the IMG report - we ARE on the hook there is NO way around it. Wishing otherwise just won't change the truth, no matter how hard you may try.

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 12 months ago

You mean the self-disbanded due to no available facts or plans citizen committee? The public that appears to be 95% plus (being generous here) opposed to it? I'm with "R" on this - regularly repeating half-truths and outright lies does not a truth or a fact make. Again, that's over TWO BILLION dollars required for delvelopment costs, which the FAA sponsored study said would mostly have to come from taxpayer wallets (DUH). Almost forgot - thus far exactly ZERO similar efforts have been financially successful in the US so far. Ummmm - the stadium deal was guaranteed by taxpayers, and look at how well that has turned out? Sorry, not buying into the lies today, or tomorrow either. Sounds like you might be among the few to benefit from this.

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