BOC OKs grant applications to improve airport



LAWRENCEVILLE — Gwinnett officials will continue work to try to improve Briscoe Field as a general aviation airport, with grant applications approved Tuesday unrelated to the proposal to privatize the operation.

Commissioners approved seven grant applications, which would be sent to the state and the Federal Aviation Administration, seeking up to $7.4 million for proposed upgrades to a taxiway, the air traffic control tower, the runway and a proposed wash rack.

“These are capital improvements that need to be made during the life cycle of any airport like Briscoe Field,” Transportation Director Brian Allen said, adding that the county applied for the same grants last year and was denied the funding.

Commissioner John Heard, who opposes a proposal to privatize and allow commercial flights at the Lawrenceville airport, said he was reassured that the grants would not impact the decision, which is expected to be reviewed in the coming weeks or months.

“Those are benefits for the ongoing maintenance,” he said, adding that he would agree with privatizing of the airport but continuing to only allow general aviation as is the case.

“I don’t want to give a leg up,” to a commercial enterprise through the grants, he said. “If they are receiving benefit, then they need to pay for that benefit.”

In October, Commissioner Shirley Lasseter put off a decision on the next step in the privatization timeline until after new commissioners, including Heard, took office this month. It is unclear if the decision will wait until the election of a new chairman in March.

“We’re awaiting board direction with what to do with the RFP process,” Allen said of moving forward to the proposal stage after three companies submitted qualifications to take over the operations.