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Hill: Don't privatize or schedule flights at Briscoe Field

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Former Gwinnett Commission Chairman Wayne Hill voted against commercial flights at the local airport 15 years ago, and he would vote no again, if he were still in office.

Hill, a member of the original airport authority in 1971 when the county opened its airfield, shared his opinion Monday on the controversial proposal to add scheduled flights during a meeting of a citizens task force studying the idea.

"My feelings haven't changed since 1971," Hill, a pilot, said. "Our thought was you had to have a good general aviation airport to support your businesses."

Called upon as an expert in the history of the airport, Hill talked about decisions to extend the runway to 6,000 feet and, when he was serving as commission chairman, to add a control tower.

Growth, he said, tracked an early study to show the tiny airfield would expand to 400 aircraft by 2000.

But Hill said calls to privatize and possibly commercialize the airport do not make sense.

"We felt like we had a good thing going, and we could manage it," Hill said of studying privatization while he was in office. "I would be very interested in putting money in it and making it the best it could be."

While proponents of scheduled service said general aviation operations could continue with little interference, Hill said he avoids commercial airports when he flies his own small six-seater plane and believes the two aren't compatible.

He added that he would enjoy taking a commercial flight from Lawrenceville to New York, if the proposed service was added.

But, instead, he thinks that commissioners should pay more attention to driving up the corporate business, rectifying a problem that has Fortune 500 company NCR based in Gwinnett but its planes based in Cobb.

"I think you've got a jewel. You've got an opportunity to have a great place here," he said, adding that old hangars should be rebuilt to upgrade the facilities but acknowledging that a down economy could prevent action for years.

To that end, Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson said city leaders have scheduled meetings with county officials to discuss if the city could play a role in improving the aesthetics of the field. The city has threatened a lawsuit if the county moves forward with the commercial plans but would take part in upgrades to the general aviation operations.

Also at Monday's task force meeting, Lawrenceville resident Jeremy Stephens presented the group with findings from a master's degree thesis study, completed to obtain a master's of science in management degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Stephens said his statistical analysis showed an economic impact of $1.6 billion to $2.3 billion by the scheduled service pans, as well as between 17,000 and 27,000 new jobs.

He also found, through a study of neighborhoods surrounding similar airports, homes were valued at $60,000 higher than here, instead of the decrease in property values argued by opponents of the plans.

Comments

Don 2 years ago

I knew i liked Wayne Hill for a reason. At least one of our former elected officials has a brain.

Wayne is a businessman and if there was money to be made he would be supporting it.

No to commercial flights in and out of Briscoe.

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MissDaisyCook 2 years ago

Now I remember why I did not care for Wayne. selfish and egotistical. He dosen't want to wait to fly his little planey into Brisco. Give us some commuter flights from here to the rest of the southeast.

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jjbod1 2 years ago

Completely agree with you there.

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HonestIngine 2 years ago

Hey do you live in L'ville near Briscoe? I thought so... Move to our area and then make those statements... This airport was not designed for commercial traffic...Planned that way when it was built....should stay that way for good...

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Cleanupguy 2 years ago

Surely Hades has frozen over – I’m agreeing with Wayne “Boot” Hill. So a kid writes a term paper that eerily regurgitates the same tired old Propeller Fellers rhetoric. I wonder who’s paying for his tuition. Anyway, still wondering EXACTLY where the jobs will magically come from (and what they will be and how long they will last), the credibility workaround for the fact that this type of project has never been successful elsewhere, and the certainty that taxpayers (reference Sabrina Smith’s earlier comments concerning the FAA’s crystal clear statements) will be on the hook if/when it doesn’t go as “promised.” OK, so there are still a million other unanswered questions, like why property values would go UP here but have gone DOWN everywhere else that this has been done, how much of a quality of life decrease is deemed acceptable, etc. Looks like our esteemed leaders are determined to give this a fair impartial hearing before passing it.

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gotthefacts 2 years ago

....And don't forget that, although Propeller claims a 737 can easily land on the existing runway, the citizens committee was informed last night by the airport manager that, yes, a 737 could indeed land on a 6.000 foot runway...EMPTY AND WITH LITTLE FUEL. Does anyone know an airline that can make a profit by flying aircraft without passengers in and out of a small airport?

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R 2 years ago

Eric Clapton did, it’s called “Cocaine”

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gotthefacts 2 years ago

Let's see...what else did the committee hear last night?? Oh yes, that just as Propeller says, a 737 can easily arrive and depart Briscoe on a 6,000 ft. runway!! There's only one problem...IT WOULD HAVE TO BE EMPTY OF PASSENGERS (only 4-5 folks on board) and carry little fuel. Does anyone know an airline that has figured out how to profit from such service?? It's interesting also that we JUST got our new property tax info, and our home that was valued at $175,000 in 2006 has a fair market value of $124,000 today...we live within two miles of the airport in a lovely neighborhood. Jeremy's real estate figures don't jive with reality!! And yes, Mr. Hill can see a future Briscoe Field as a thriving General Aviation airport, which is what it should be. Thank you Mayor Judy Johnson for strategizing with cohorts on how to help improve this asset without destroying the quality of life for it neighbors!!

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dentaldawg83 2 years ago

like Wayne Hil, or not, but the county thrived under his stead on the Commission...since he left office Gwinnett County has become a mess...

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LoganvilleResident 2 years ago

Unfortunately, I believe it became a mess because of all the rampant unchecked growth under his reign. Endless apartment complexes, endless urban sprawl... All allowed under previous commissions that saw the $$$$. The developers/owners of all of that construction have failed to maintain it and now look where we are... crime, gangs, nationally recognized drug trafficking hub.. The list goes on and on.

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R 2 years ago

Well he exited before the music stopped...

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HonestIngine 2 years ago

So very true, only problem is that 500k people moved into the county, because of his leadership and growth the county had during his tenure.. Now look, we can't get rid of all these idiots that think they know it all....

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jack 2 years ago

thesis (noun)- a hypothetical proposition, especially one put forth for the sake of argument or one to be accepted without proof. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Maybe a Collins Hill sophomore can submit their economics term paper to the committee as rebuttal.

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notblind 2 years ago

Mr. Stephens thesis is a classic example of cherry picking statistics. I bet he didn't include any stats from failed privatizations.

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teelee 2 years ago

How many were only 40 miles from the world's busiest airport? This should be a private venture anyway.

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teelee 2 years ago

Well Wayne Hill obviously doesn't need the money and he doesn't want the extra airplane traffic to interfere with his personal airplane flying. Unfortunately many of us in Gwinnett are struggling to make ends meet. High gas prices, unemployment and inflation have made it tough on the people that are still lucky to be working. Commercial flights could jump start our floundering local economy. The construction we enjoyed for years is gone and may never come back. Gwinnett County wants to have concert arenas, professional ball parks and a new billion dollar gambling venue but they don't want to be progressive when it comes to our airport. We are located about 40 miles from the worlds BUSIEST airport and it is not rocket science to understand the benefit and the value of a second commercial airport in the metro area. The business owners and flight schools are struggling to stay in business at Briscoe Field. There are plenty of empty hangars and commercial properties. Wayne Hill didn't have a problem building the Mall of Georgia and all of the other things that forever changed our county but he has a problem expanding Briscoe Field. The Gwinnett County Commissioners owe it to the residents of Gwinnett to do what it can to bring jobs and prosperity back to Gwinnett. Gwinnett County is still number one for home foreclosures in Georgia. Mr. Hill's opinions are out of touch with the average Gwinnett County resident. The average Gwinnett citizen does not have a big retirement and a private airplane to worry about. The Gwinnett Daily Post has failed to fairly report the benefits of expanding the airport. Gwinnett County has not even been able to give their police and firefighters a raise in years. I think it is past time to expand this airport and turn Gwinnett around. Gwinnett County used to be great now not so much.

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jack 2 years ago

teelee- "Commercial flights could jump start our floundering local economy." How? Please elaborate. "The Gwinnett Daily Post has failed to fairly report the benefits of expanding the airport." Please list those benefits in detail. "...and flight schools are struggling to stay in business at Briscoe Field." Do you think commercial craft and student pilots would/should be sharing the same airspace? The stadium fiasco should serve as a warning to those basing their belief on nebulous vagaries that Briscoe could be economic salvation for the county.

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HonestIngine 2 years ago

Agreed Jack, Look at Coolray... Prime example of our greedy politicians taking advantage of the and I quote teelee above"us in Gwinnett are struggling to make ends meet", yes we are and by spending more of our tax money that will only benefit the few priviledged is not an answer.

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teelee 2 years ago

Let private investors pay for it, Hartsfield- Jackson is a cash cow that brings in billions.

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teelee 2 years ago

Now Jack if you can't figure that out with common sense then I can't help you.

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jack 2 years ago

A typical response from one with no answers.

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Cleanupguy 2 years ago

Please share your wisdom - so the flight schools should be closed down? Got any whatcha call FACTS to spew for a change of pace?

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jljustis 2 years ago

The problem is that you have no common sense teelee. This venture would fail with no jobs added and millions of dollars wasted. The "analysis" is pie in the sky.

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Cleanupguy 2 years ago

Soooo much wrong with this kid’s study – where to start? He used the phrases “statistical analysis” and “scheduled service pans (sic – hopefully this was supposed to be plans)”, implying that his thesis was based entirely upon a theoretical modeling of what Propeller Investments (or whomever) had proposed as being a workable and factual starting point. Rest assured that “build it and they will come” only works in the movies. Hmmmmm – so home values elsewhere (in fact) dropped also, bottoming out at an average higher cost than we have here in the pre-airport condition. That’s the kind of amazing critical thinking that reeks of no thinking at all. I think this guy is in the wrong field – he needs to be in politics.

It appeared that Mr. Hill actually is interested in Gwinnett economic development, but not by throwing cash down a rat hole – his ideas were actually quite nicely on target and in line with reality. The Propeller Fellers have yet to actually enumerate where they believe these jobs will come from or how long they’ll stay, but it shore did sound real purty. From the experiences at all other places where this has been tried, however, it’s pure fantasy, and again, taxpayers WILL be stuck with the bills. Speaking of Propeller, I presume that "teelee" favors government spending to make everything better. Personally, I'd rather invest in penney stocks or anti-gravity machines.

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Dubbin 2 years ago

17,000 jobs generated by the airport? I want some of what this guy is smoking. Gwinnett County Public Schools operates 123 schools and employs 11,000 teachers. Please tell me how a small passenger airport with 6 gates is going to generate 17,000 jobs? Weren't there going to be thousands of jobs generated by the Gwinnett Braves? This airport is a boondoggle with a capital B. Gwinnett taxpayers should know by now that our government officials will lie to us to bring profits to their developer buddies. Don't believe me? Ask Charles Bannister or Kevin Kenerly.

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kayak 2 years ago

The Propeller Fellers all advocate private ownership/investment. Private investment hinges on making a profit. That profit comes at the expense of all of us living within 20+ miles of this small airport as we watch our home values plummet even further. I am the first to advocate private ownership vs. government-run entities but unless they plan to exclusively use vertical-lift aircraft their profit comes at my expense. I do not want additional/larger aircraft flying over my home! Period! I like it as a small, county-run airport designed for private aircraft. It could use some sprucing up and I am glad that the Mayor is on our side of this argument. Hope that continues.

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teelee 2 years ago

And when you bought a house near the airport did it not occur to you that it might get bigger?

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R 2 years ago

Teelee was the possibly it would get BIGGER ever shown on the 2010, 2020, 2030 0r 2040 Gwinnett Landuse maps?

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gotthefacts 2 years ago

Yes, teelee, we are all struggling to make ends meet, which is exactly one reason we are against commercialization. Why would any citizen be willing to risk giving Propeller the opportunity to commercialize Briscoe when this company has absolutely NO track record. Even the IMG study commissioned by our own board stated that any bidder should be able to show AT LEAST five years of successful airport management experience. Scott Searitt of the FAA Atlanta Regional office has stated unequivocally that if Briscoe does not succeed as a commercial airport, the county will be legally bound to continue to manage Briscoe Field as a commercial airport for the remainder of the lease...this means YOU and ME, friends, will feel the pinch in our taxes to meet this requirement. We might get gambling venues, concert arenas (gee, I thought we already had one), etc....but if it comes wrapped up with commercial passenger service, there will no one interested in LIVING in Gwinnett. It will end up being one of those locations people only like to visit. Also, Briscoe even if commercialized will never be an O & D airport (origination/destination) like Hartsfield.

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teelee 2 years ago

Good thing you don't run a business. I'll bet you have a Lawrenceville address also.

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R 2 years ago

Why is yours in NY?

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166LZU 2 years ago

I was at the CRC meeting last night. Perhaps Mr. Stephens would be willing to make his “thesis” public - since the County never made good on its “toolbox” of info that it said it would provide to the public during this process. Then the public can see how much independent research he actually put in to it (and who he got his data from) and what kind assumptions he used to test his hypotheses. For example, did he use the AMACS II 1.3 million passengers per year (based on FL + east coast service) or did he use the 2.5 million passengers per year propaganda that Fly Gwinnett Forward and Propeller allege (L’ville to Las Vegas Lickety-Split!)? In his property value hypothesis did he consider all the airports that have operated 48+ years as a GA airport (like LZU) and then went to commercial service or just use airports that were always commercial? Did he normalize property value data between various locations with a CPI index or just assume there’s no difference in housing costs between different locations? Did he consider real, complete aircraft noise data independently for property value impacts or just use takeoff noise data for aircraft that hardly ever use LZU (e.g. LJ24, Gulfstream II, or Global Express) like FGF and Propeller do for their “facts”? You know, all the considerations that should have shot down commercialization of LZU 18 years ago - or today.

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HonestIngine 2 years ago

If Briscoe, becomes commercial, just like any government, it will grow and expand and take over the entire area, Just like Midway airport in Chicago, It's expanding as we speak... Look out property owners.,in L'ville and Dacula, Collins Hill.... if you think we are in a depressed real estate market now, just wait...you will be in for a shock, when you try to sell with all the Jet noise....

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Sorry_it_came_to_this 2 years ago

According to the FAA's document on the economic benefit of airports, the direct benefit of the airport can only include LOCAL benefit. Thus, a ticket sale of $600 which goes to the corporate coffers of an airline cannot be counted. The largest part of a direct benefit would be the salaries created by airport jobs. According to the FAA, an airport with 1 million arriving passengers (not including transfers) would create 650 airport jobs.

According to the FAA, there would be NO INDIRECT benefit created because of Briscoe Field. Indirect Benefit would be jobs like restaurant jobs, hotel jobs etc. According to the FAA, a quotient of less than 1 using the following formula means NO INDIRECT BENEFIT: (Arriving Passengers - Transfers) / (Metro population served by the airport).

Assuming generously 1 million arriving passengers in a year divided by the metro population of Gwinnett County, Barrow, South Hall and South Jackson of 1.5 million yields a quotient of .667.

SO, where did the 20,000 jobs come from???? How about 650 jobs, maybe, assuming the best. And that's if you could even get 1 million passengers in a year at an airport that has no takers from the existing commercial airlines. 650 jobs using the most generous estimates in return for destroying the quality of life for the heart of the county - for destroying property values - for destroying the cities of Dacula, Auburn, Lawrenceville and other unicorporated areas. Not worth it - not even close.

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Dubbin 2 years ago

I doubt even 650 jobs come from this. And since the AirTran / Southwest merger there is no major carrier who will consider flying out of Gwinnett anyway. Boondoggle!

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Don 2 years ago

Just wondering if any of the elected officials have looked into why Peachtree Dekalb airport can make money as a genral aviation airport?

For all those that want this airport because it will eliminate them from going to Hartsfield I have one question. How is this going to lead to hotels? If is for local comunter traffic it will not need hotels. One of the worst hotel markets in the metro Atlanta area now is the rea around Hartsfield/Jackson.

When I moved to Gwinnett in 1991 I looked at the land use map and choose to build my house near the general aviation airport (five miles away). So for everyone who wants the airport would you be supportive of having a gas station next to your house? I mean it would create jobs, right? Or how about a Walmart?

I can tell you that if they go to comercial flights more of the general aviation planes will move out to Gainesville and other airports, nobody wants there small plane to get sand blasted by jet wash from a 737. Whn the small planes move so does their property tax so Gwinnett would loose out on this revenue.

Keep the airport a general aviation without comercial flights.

You know in hindsight maybe we should have closed the airport and used the land to build the Gwinnett Braves Stadium! I mean look how much revenue that is generating for the county! Politicians only lie when their lips are moving, and guess what they are moving.

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WantingFacts 2 years ago

If supporters of commercial service at Briscoe have the facts on their side, why do they refuse to answer the most basic questions about their position?

  1. How was it determined that 20,000 jobs would be created by commercial service at Briscoe?
  2. What methodology was used to determine that home values would increase instead of decrease if the airport is commercialized?
  3. Mike Beaudreau stated that if the contract is written properly, the taxpayers will not be responsible for continuing to operate the airport in the event of bankruptcy by Propeller. What is the clause that will be included in the contract to accomplish this?
  4. How did Alvin Wilbanks determine that commercial aircraft at Briscoe would have no impact on any individual school in Gwinnett?
  5. Why did Michael Paris say that this should not be an effort just by the Gwinnett Chamber and that he liked the idea of the website right before Fly Gwinnett Forward was launched?

For people who claim they want the facts, the silence is deafening when we ask them to provide facts to support their position.

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Cleanupguy 2 years ago

Great questions - perhaps teelee or one of the other Propeller Fellers could answer them, or maybe just spew rhetoric and run away from it. Ooooo - I can answer one of them - home prices did in fact tank around the airport project noted. The trick is that they started way higher than current ones in Lawrenceville, and "landed" at average prices above the averages here - just some overtly deceptive math magic, an intentional misleading lie.

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kayak 2 years ago

Not to mention that if you post something negative on the Fly Gwinnett Forward facebook page, it gets deleted within the hour!! Guess those propeller heads can't stand to hear the truth about their huge fiasco....

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WantingFacts 2 years ago

... and while I'm asking questions that airport supporters will never answer, would someone please tell me why it is so much worse for a board member of Fly Gwinnett Forward to have to live near an apartment than it is for others to have to live next to a commercial airport?

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R 2 years ago

YOU just don't have the facts that's all ...

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WantingFacts 2 years ago

Mike Beaudreau touts his accomplishments on his campaign website:

Mike believes that homeowners have a right to expect that their property values and neighborhoods will not suffer from zoning and development decisions that are inappropriate for their communities. For example, the Lake Lucerne-Five Forks Trickum Road Gas Station, zonings off Oleander Road, West Park Place, and Grayson-New Hope Road have all been turned down.

Hey Mike: You take credit for saving the residents of Lilburn from the destruction to their property values and quality of life that would have been caused by a gas station. On the other hand, you refuse to explain to the residents of Lawrenceville and Dacula why their property values and quality of life are not as important as Brett Smith's commercial airport that will burden ALL taxpayers in the county if it fails.

Do any Beaudreau supporters care to explain why a gas station is more harmful than a commercial airport?

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BevL 2 years ago

Jeremy Paul Stephens, a master’s candidate from Embry-Riddle, submitted his unsolicited thesis to the Citizen's Review Committee as justification for Briscoe expansion. Two of the main sources of information cited by Mr. Stephens were none other than Brett Smith, President of Propeller Investments, and Fly Gwinnett Forward. With these two sources, draw your own conclusion about the validity of Mr. Stephens thesis, just remember - thesis means- a hypothetical proposition, especially one put forth for the sake of argument or one to be accepted without proof. (American Heritage Dictionary)

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Cleanupguy 2 years ago

Oh, wow - is that ever a shocker! Color me surprised! What the heck - he was bought and paid for, fair and square.

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R 2 years ago

The same type of "training" has been provided to the brains behind the T-SPLOST.

But do give him credit, he had to overlook and remove volumes of data to reach the predestined conclusion and THAT herculean effort alone is worth the Masters degree, if he presented it without breaking out in laughter…

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pcBobby 2 years ago

Wayne has a common sense view on this matter. Indeed, there's a jewel there for organizations like NCR.

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WantingFacts 2 years ago

I'm sure no one is surprised that none of the airport supporters answered the questions. They have no credible explanation for continuing to push this white elephant project. They have been using the same lame explanations they used for the trash plan, the Braves Stadium and the Collins Hill Golf Course. The only problem is that if they get this passed, it will be worse than all of the other taxpayer ripoffs combined.

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jljustis 2 years ago

Stephens analysis is total garbage. An obvious lie. Worse than the lies told to us about the Gwinnett Braves.

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