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Airport study group to answer commissioner's questions

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Commissioner Lynette Howard on Tuesday helped a citizens group tasked with evaluating the future of Gwinnett's Briscoe Field hone its work. In fact, she gave members' homework.

The task force, which temporarily disbanded last year, citing a lack of support and direction from the Board of Commissioners, was given a list of more than a dozen questions to answer as part of its work.

The questions range from the airport's role in the county's economy, its brand and how things will change under certain conditions.

While committee members originally sought to consider four scenarios for the small airfield, Howard said it appeared that they had settled on two -- retaining county control but improving service as a general aviation facility or privatizing the airport and allowing scheduled passenger flights.

The potential of flights have been a cause of consternation among the surrounding community for several years, but Howard noted that the sole company to submit a proposal in the county's privatization process was one who has pitched allowing commercial service.

"I personally don't know a lot about aviation," Howard, who lives in Peachtree Corners said. "I do know when I drive by the airprot it doesn't look like it belongs in Gwinnett. It neds to be improved."

As a former planning commissioner who has been involved in zoning issues for a decade, Howard talked about the need to discuss the airport's future in terms of how it can best be developed for quality of life. If gates are constructed, she said, the committee should consider how they could be used for another purpose if passenger flights do not come.

Members divided the questions among subcommittees, and asked Howard, who was named as a liaison, to attend future meetings.

Committee Chairman Tip Cape expressed frustration again that requests for studies had not been met, but Howard gave a list of questions that the group could answer to narrow down the scope, which could get more positive results.

"We have to be good stewards of the taxpayer money, so we're not going to spend $1 million," Howard said, adding that commissioners would already be compelled to do in-depth assessments before an airport contract is signed, even if the committee had already done one.