LAWRENCEVILLE -- "I guess there are no simple answers," Lou Wolinetz, a consultant for an airport privatization process, told a citizens committee Tuesday.
Tasked with studying four possibilities for Gwinnett's Briscoe Field, committee members questioned Wolinetz for nearly an hour, tackling issues on a federal privatization process, risks and rewards.
Other than to procedural questions, many of the answers, Wolinetz said, would be determined by the market, companies interested in taking over the airport and officials' vision for the airport's future.
Tip Cape, the chairman of the citizens advisory board, said the most important thing he took from the conversation is a need for economic analysis of the possibilities, which could include commercial passenger service, and a study on the potential impacts.
"That was a very helpful discussion," he said after the teleconference, although he delayed much of the board's discourse on Wolinetz's answers to a meeting in two weeks.
For Tony Powell, a Lawrenceville city councilman who has openly battled against the commercialization proposal, the teleconference answered his biggest concern: the county will lose some control over the airport if commercial flights begin.
While one company has proposed a 10-gate commercial operation, Powell pointed out that once the Federal Aviation Administration issues a permit, the county cannot limit flights from arriving at the airport.
Wolinetz said that, while the county could not turn away any airline interested in opening up a commercial hub, the operations could be limited by the facilities. For example, a limited number of gates would limit the number of flights.
He also said that the county could ask for a voluntary curfew or make the case to the FAA to restrict hours.
"Once you get the permit, it's the carriers that control the airport," Powell said. "It really means that the public loses control."
About two dozen local residents turned out as an audience to Tuesday's proceedings. While some are in favor of commercial flights as an economic boon, many are concerned that an airport expansion could bring noise and reduce property values.
"We are fighting for the quality of our lives," resident Beverly Lougher said, addressing the group. "On the balance of scales (with) business and money, please taken into consideration the citizens of this area."
In addition to allowing comment at its meetings, the next of which is scheduled for Dec. 6, the advisory board is accepting public comments at the site www.gwinnettbriscoefield.com.