LAWRENCEVILLE -- At least two companies are interested in bidding to take over Gwinnett's Briscoe Field.
Representatives from Propeller Airports and Saker Aviation, along with other consulting firms, attending a pre-bid conference Thursday involving the potential privatization of the county airport.
Brett Smith, of Propeller said the company is still interested in bringing commercial passenger service to the small airfield -- a proposal that has fueled debate for three years. But just because the county has finally reached the proposal stage, he said, does not bring him relief.
"I think there's a lot of obstacles yet to come, and I don't think an issuance of the (request for proposals), by any means, means it will happen," Smith said, adding that the company is not interested in taking over operations if the airport remains a general aviation facility.
Ronald Ricciardi, president and CEO of Saker Aviation, came in from Pennsylvania for the pre-bid conference.
Ricciardi said he had not followed the debate about the potential expansion to the airport and had not completed research to determine what he might propose in a bid.
His company manages both commercial and general aviation airports in New York and Kansas.
"I'll be something we'll look at, and we'll see if it bears support from an economic standpoint," he said of passenger service, adding that the community support and facilities will also factor in.
The pre-bid conference went quickly with few questions asked of the technical aspects of the proposal process or procedures.
Potential bidders have until Monday to submit questions, and proposals are due Feb. 8.
Peggy Sisca knew the conference was likely to be technical and would not include comments from the public, but she and husband Tony still came to watch.
"I didn't expect a whole lot to happen. I just wanted to be here in case," Sisca said.
The couple have been worried about the proposed commercial flights for years.
"I'm concerned from a personal aspect. Come the day we want to sell our home, we aren't sure we could get anyone to buy it," she said, adding that she has gathered 100 signatures in the past month for a petition at www.change.org/petitions/dont-land-in-my-back-yard.
Another concerned citizen, Larry Yates, has watched as a citizens group met to discuss the airport's future, and he implored commissioners to allow the group to continue after a surprise split decision to disband last month.
On Thursday, he continued his watch at the pre-bid conference.
"A lot of this can come up and slip out pretty quick," he said. "I want to keep everybody honest."
Like Yates, Smith said he wished the study committee could have continued their conversations.
"I concur with what the citizens committee's findings were," Smith said of the recommendation to pursue customs at the airport, study the environmental and economic impact of commercial passenger service and to not pursue privatization as a general aviation facility. "It's unfortunate we aren't able to continue dealing with them because I believe the citizens committee has an important part in all this."