Rendering provided by whyprivatizebriscoe.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — Brett Smith, the CEO of Propeller Airports, is asking the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners to postpone its scheduled Tuesday vote on the privatization of Briscoe Field.
Smith held a press conference Monday outside a hangar at the Lawrenceville airport. He asked the BOC to delay its vote because “200,000 citizens from one entire district of the county are not being represented,” the product of District 1 Commissioner Shirley Lasseter’s abrupt resignation amid federal bribery charges last week.
At the very least, he asked for the company’s proposal to be made public.
“As everyone here knows, this process has been going on for the better part of three years, with a non-stop change in elected officials,” Smith said. “There is no pressing need to vote (Tuesday).”
A recommendation from the Gwinnett Department of Transportation, posted online last week as part of the agenda packet for Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, blasted the heretofore confidential proposal from Propeller — the only one received by the county — and recommended its rejection.
The recommendation said that “while proposal included a sufficient team of subcontractors ... it provided only minimal detail for the operation, development and planning for Briscoe Field.”
Smith contested that assessment, referencing the roughly 700-page documents he held in his hand Monday.
“I can assure you that everything that they asked for was put in the proposal,” he said. “I wouldn’t have spent four years working on this to leave stuff out. These proposals are as good as they get.”
He called the item’s placement on Tuesday’s BOC agenda, worded as a vote on an “approval to reject” the proposal, premature and poorly thought out.
“I’m not even allowed to talk to (commission members),” he said. “The commissioners unfortunately haven’t even seen our presentation.”
County spokesman Joe Sorenson wasn’t sure if the commissioners had seen anything but the Department of Transportation’s recommendation. He said there’s a possibility the board could table the motion at Tuesday’s meeting. It could, of course, vote one way or another as well.
“But one way or another, the Board will address the item on the agenda tomorrow,” Sorenson said in an email.
Chairwoman Charlotte Nash could not be reached for comment.
Smith also proposed a county-wide referendum on the issue. Sorenson said the county would not have the authority to initiate a public vote — it would likely have to come down from the state legislature.
Proponents of both sides of the privatization argument weighed in Monday.
“I think we could see a 4-0 vote on this (Tuesday), and that would mean that (Lasster’s) vote would not have actually made a difference any way,” said Sabrina Smith of Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government.
Added Larry Yates, representing Citizens for a Better Gwinnett: “If you want to build an airport, go somewhere else where there is no community ... Don’t come into our neighborhoods to build an airport that’s full of noise pollution and truly a lot of disruption.”
Yates called Smith’s declaration of concern for all of the county’s voters to be represented “balderdash.”
Jimmy Norton of Fly Gwinnett Forward, a local pro-privatization group, issued a statement Monday calling a November referendum the “most appropriate way” to resolve the issue.
“This action would allow adequate time for the citizens to properly analyze the proposal on its own merits,” Norton said, “and enables all of the voting citizens of Gwinnett County to make an informed decision on this matter via the ballot box.”
Smith urged that Propeller’s proposal at least be made public before a vote was taken.
“I know that people are nervous, but if you don’t know what something is, of course you’re going to be nervous,” he said. “That’s why everybody needs to see it.”