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HASTINGS: A different view of the airport committee

Recently, Gaye McNeil voiced her thoughts about her involvement on the Airport Privatization Review Committee ("Airport committee deserved better," May 6, 10A). Had I not been a part of this process, I would be appalled at her experience. Luckily, I WAS part of the process; as a spectator, and most recently, as a member of the committee.

So I know "the rest of the story."

She states that the committee could have never come to a consensus. A "consensus" was not the charge given to this committee by the Board of Commissioners liaison, Lynette Howard. Once Howard was put in place, she made clear her goal was for the group to arrive at the "Top five to 10 recommendations for the airport to make it a world-class facility, whether Privatized, General Aviation, or added scheduled service, with input from ALL members."

On April 30, we as a committee walked into an exercise that we knew from the previous week we would be part of. It was a tool to do just as Howard had asked of us; to narrow down priorities. It involved brainstormed items from the previous week posted along a wall, each of us writing comments and/or concerns under every topic, and finally, placing one of five dots on the priority we felt most strongly about. Alas, we were accomplishing our goal in a methodical way.

What came next was insulting ... the discussion and vote of the opposition's report that had been sent to the committee at 10:38 that morning. A very well-written, very biased piece that three members had not even seen until they arrived at the meeting. McNeil wrote in her column: "I don't know about others, but I checked and rechecked my emails until I left to attend our meetings. It is disturbing to me that others did not do so."

Personally speaking, I checked at 10:30, just before leaving for an 11 a.m. PTA meeting that lasted more than two hours. It was while heading to another meeting that I learned of the email, had it printed, and read while driving. To imply that others did not care enough to constantly check their email is yet another attempt to mislead the public.

Once discussion began, the cloud of hypocrisy grew. It made zero difference that there had been no time to digest the contents of their report (which clearly six members DID have well in advance) or that Howard was not there. When I challenged a member that this report wasn't even our mission he quipped: "I didn't sign up for sticky notes or dots on a wall." Tabling this vote for one week would have been completely appropriate and the right thing to do to allow for an informed decision. Six members decided differently, hence the five abstaining votes.

McNeil also wrote; "Now it seems, led by Fly Gwinnett Forward and Propeller Investments, a few people are takings shots claiming that Delta Airlines wrote the final report." I cannot speak for Propeller, but as a member of Fly Gwinnett Forward, this absolutely is not true. We do not indulge in or promote rumors. Instead, we exist to provide factual information surrounding this debate to the general public.

This only begins to scratch the surface of how misleading the little untruths are in a decision that is so important to many, on both sides. We can agree to disagree, but do so civilly and based on facts, not emotion and misinformation.

Having been involved as a volunteer for many years in Gwinnett, I also have sacrificed time, money and missed my son's games, not just in the past six months. I have done all of this gladly as most issues worth involvement do not come easy and without sacrifice. I'm not cynical about the ability and potential that our great county has to offer. Indeed, the opposite.

At the end of the day, no matter the outcome of this debate, at least there is a heightened awareness of Briscoe Field and its untapped potential. For this, we all win.

Paula Hastings works in community relations andserved asPlanning Commissioner forfive years.She lives in Lawrenceville with her husband of 18 years and their 14-year-old son.

Comments

notblind 1 year, 11 months ago

Ms. Hastings writes :

"...world class facility...." This means lets throw taxpayer money at it [ money that ends up in the pockets of the well connected ].

"...Briscoe Field and it's untapped potential..." Untapped potential for what ?? The truth is nobody knows.

The status quo has worked great for a few decades which is more than can be said about any recently privatized airports. We need to learn from the mistakes of others instead of thinking that somehow our county leaders are smarter than county leaders in other states. Actually, past experience shows that our leaders may actually be less intelligent. And anybody that would chose a French company to partner with isn't showing much intelligence.

I have an idea. Let's turn the runways into access roads and make the whole place an industrial park.

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gordon7 1 year, 11 months ago

The members of FGF are far from civil. Read their posts. A major purpose of the group is to paint opponents as classless, hysterical idiots. Ms. Hastings loses all credibility when she describes the group as a civil "fact" providing group. It is quite the opposite.

Take a little time. Just look at their posts.

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Dubbin 1 year, 11 months ago

Ms Hastings was recently deriding the greedy developers who want to put apartments next to the taxpayer boondoggle Braves stadium because it would degrade the quality of life in the area where she lives. So some apartments next to her house are NOT OK but a boondoggle, bankrupt commercial airport that blights the entire central part of Gwinnett and becomes a burden on the citizens (just like the Braves stadium) is OK, right? Remember that Ms Hastings was the long time planning commission representative appointed by Kevin Kenerly - follow the money!

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Katrina 1 year, 11 months ago

This is too ironic!! We've been criticized plenty for our NIMBY attitude about the airport, but Ms. Hastings is upset about apartments being built near her?? LOL!!!

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KipKorn 1 year, 11 months ago

Thank you Ms. Hastings. It is reassuring to know that there are some intelligent and professional people on the Airport Privatization Review Committee. The six committee members involved in the hastily-written report and last-minute vote clearly had no intentions of doing the job they were assigned to do. Why did the other five members have no idea there was a forthcoming report? They have done our community a disservice and should be ashamed of themselves. The Airport Privatization Review Committee had an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of this project thoroughly and sensibly. Instead, they have embarrassed themselves. Whatever happens with this airport, those of us who haven't yet made up our minds deserve the facts. The Airport Privatization Review Committee has sullied this process. If I had any faith in our community's committee decision-making ability I'd call for a committee to investigate the activities of Gaye McNeil, Jim Reagan and the rest of their unethical voting bloc. Their actions are better suited to Russia, not Gwinnett County!

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Dubbin 1 year, 11 months ago

Now it begins. The monied interests start to threaten private individuals. Is there ever a point where you developers and business people think about anything besides your own wallet? Is there nothing you won't stoop to?

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KipKorn 1 year, 11 months ago

Dubbin, anyone who disagrees with the opposition is always labeled a developer or private interest. I do have a private interest: and that is my daughter who attends college out-of-state. So excuse me for weighing the option of her flying right into Lawrenceville from southern Florida!

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah baby, just check out Gainesville for a regional success story…

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BufordGuy 1 year, 11 months ago

And therein lies the problem. The "I, me, and my" attitude doesn't work when dealing with an asset owned by the citizens. Can't let our one selfish interest ruin other people's lives. That is what the Rule of Law is all about.

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 11 months ago

I think an investigation of people like Jim Regan and Gaye McNeil would be hysterical. Jim and Gaye are the nicest, most boring people you will ever meet. An investigator would fall asleep investigating them while they go to church, take care of elderly family members, watch TV, go out to dinner and visit friends. If supporters of commercial service at Briscoe think they will find anything nefarious about these two, I say, have at it! How funny.

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Katrina 1 year, 11 months ago

KipKorn, The committee was tasked with making a recommendation on Briscoe to the BOC. Based on the facts presented by the FAA and two separate aviation industry consultants, the vote was 6 to 5 against turning Briscoe over to Propeller. The recommendation/report was due May 8. Waiting a week wasn't going to change anyone's mind.

Before the scandals with Bannister and Kenerly, the commissioners were moving ahead on this without any input from the public. I emailed the county in July of 2010 (!) and received a fact sheet that promised public input, but the timeline contained NO public hearings. When I emailed the county back and asked when the public hearings would be, I got NO response. If it weren't for the scandals (which slowed things down), this thing would already be a done deal. Now THAT sounds like Russia.

Finally, to impugn the integrity of Gaye McNeil and Jim Regan is beyond ludicrous. If anyone should be ashamed of himself/herself, it's you.

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JRegan 1 year, 11 months ago

KipKorn you are too late Brett Smith admittedly had me investigated almost two years ago, to his and no doubt your disappointment, there was nothing to find.

As far as the "hastily-written report and last-minute vote" I received a copy of the report at 10:39 AM, it was sent to all committee members and the DOT staff. The airport committee meeting had no time limit on our meeting. All committee members were offered time to read and discuss the report before the vote occurred. The five members who elected to abstain rather than vote rejected this offer, instead they made a motion to table the item until a future date. This motion failed and the report was submitted to a vote which passed. All these mechanisms are documented in Robert's Rules of Order by which the committee operated and were perfectly appropriate.

All the evidence, which is documented by independent, professional studies, regarding Briscoe expansion demonstrates the risk and harm to taxpayers. These are the pros and cons the committee did actually consider.

Companies will not relocate to Gwinnett because of the airport nor will it create thousands of jobs, reduce taxes, or any of the other promises which have been made.

If you want to see the decay it will bring drive around College Park or PDK airport. You will have noise pollution, air pollution (jet fuel failout), and traffic congestion. This is not just a Lawrenceville issue, plane will be flying over much of Gwinnett - Loganville, Dacula, Lilburn, Duluth, Suwanee, and Buford.

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

Kip
Did you by chance attend any of the sessions prior to Dec yourself? This group couldn't have been split any more evenly going into this process and at the final report if it tried.

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gordon7 1 year, 11 months ago

Ms. Hastings loses all credibility when she describes Fly Gwinnett Forward as behaving "civilly."

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brownso 1 year, 11 months ago

Mrs. Hasting's comments bought and paid for by whom?

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Don 1 year, 11 months ago

I really question the intelligence of Paula Hastings. I quote from the above article she states: "It was while heading to another meeting that I learned of the email, had it printed, and read while driving." It is a miricle that she made it to the meeting without hurting someone in a car accident.I mean she actually put that in writing! I wonder if she was texting to her fellow members while reading it as well.

Really what does she do at a meeting if she reads while driving? Just think how she does not pay attention on the road and what she must do while sitting in a meeting.

This airport commercialization is wrong and all the reports state that, with the exception of Propeller's. The FAA and other credible sources all state this. THis project will turn into another Gwinnett Braves Stadium liability for us taxpayers.

Oh, and yes please build the apartments by the stadium so she will learn how much more her property value will decrease. One question is how much did the Federal government pay to buy the houses down near Hartsfield?

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JRegan 1 year, 11 months ago

For the record, the resolution establishing the Briscoe Citizens Committee tasked the committee with making a recommendation to the BOC on what should happen at Briscoe - privitization, expansion, or nothing. All committee members quickly realized privatization as a general aviation airport was not practical. The remaining choices -expand or leave as is.

Never did the BOC charge the committee with identifying 5 or 10 recommedations for Briscoe, this idea seemed to originate with Ms. Howard. Ms. Howard also stated during a committee meeting her vision was for the 11 committee members to "reach a consensus".

Of course these are technicalities, the important thing here is to know two professional consulting groups have advised against initiating passenger aviation at Briscoe and two other aviation industry analysts have given this project "pratically zero-cent" chance of success. So what if Airport of Paris would manage Briscoe, the airport manager can't change the underlying fundamentals of the passenger aviation industry. Airport managment doesn't control jet fuel prices, carrier ticket prices, which airlines choose to operate at an airport, or many of the other factors which will likely doom Briscoe expansion to failure.

Is this really the type "gamble" our commissioners should be taking with the financial stability of our county government?

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 11 months ago

Paula: Concerning Fly Gwinnett Forward, you said,” We exist to provide factual information surrounding this debate to the general public.” Please answer the following questions with factual answers: 1. On the FGF website, it mentioned reducing the number of people exposed to unacceptable noise. What do you consider an acceptable number of people exposed to unacceptable noise levels? 2. On the FGF website, it called soundproofing in homes a home improvement. Please provide a reputable study that shows that soundproofing in homes to reduce unacceptable noise levels from jets flying over a home is a home improvement that will increase home values. 3. On the FGF website, the newer, quieter aircraft were touted when discussing opponents concerns about noise. Please cite the FAA restriction that will allow only new, quiet jets to fly in and out of Briscoe, and not the older, louder jets. 4. Because some airports have spent hundreds of millions of dollars soundproofing schools near airports, please provide factual evidence to support Alvin Wilbanks’ claim that commercial service at Briscoe would have no impact on any individual school, but the additional tax revenues would be positive. I have spoken to parents at Jenkins Elementary School, which is only about 2000 feet from Briscoe, and parents at Dyer, Freeman’s Mill, McKendree, Dacula High, Dacula Middle, Phoenix and Creekland who want to know the answer to this question. 5. Please provide a factual explanation of why building a commercial airport near your home will increase its value, but an apartment building near your home will decrease its value. 6. If the Landmark survey, which other marketing experts have called flawed and biased, is true and the majority of Gwinnett residents support commercial service at Briscoe, why did Propeller's Brett Smith tell county commissioners that commercial service at Briscoe was a political hot potato, but his privatization plan would insulate them from airport politics? Do you really want elected officials who are insulated from constituent concerns, and do you want elected officials who would enter into a contract with a businessman who proposes such a scenario for our commissioners? What if your elected officials were insulated from the hot potato of rezoning politics? How would you then express your concern about the apartments proposed near your home?

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Katrina 1 year, 11 months ago

Truly excellent questions, Sabrina!!!!!

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Dubbin 1 year, 11 months ago

The real questions to be asked are which accountants, insurance brokers and real estate people have been promised business with Propeller Investments? Who will provide the copiers and office equipment for the airport? Who will be hired to run day to day management, fuel concession and hanger businesses? The answers to these questions are in full view when you look at the people in Fly Gwinnett Forward (insurance brokers, accountants running for office, hanger owners, politicians who work for companies that make copiers and office equipment, etc.) Draw your own informed conclusion and you'll see this was/is a sleeze operation all the way.

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nawggin 1 year, 11 months ago

Hundreds of thousands of tourists can use the airport to fly into Gwinnett in order to visit the new multimillion dollar gambling facility. Then they will spend money at the Mall of Georgia. It is a WIN WIN WIN situation!

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166LZU 1 year, 11 months ago

I would say take Ms. Hastings views with a grain of salt, but it may take a couple pounds worth.

Ms. Hastings fails to mention that she lives about 0.8 miles from the Coolray Field pitcher’s mound and, according to GDP, is afraid the 50 acres surrounding the stadium on GA 20 between Old Peachtree and Rock Springs roads could become apartment city. But she lives over 5 miles away from the center of the LZU runway and has no problem letting Briscoe Field use commercial aircraft since she's a principal at Fly Gwinnett Forward (FGF).

She says “this report wasn’t even our mission”. Really? According to the CRC resolution, the CRC was chartered with preparing a final written report and recommendations. Not sure how she missed that.

Finally, she also says FGF exists to “provide factual information” on this debate. Really? Is that why FGF lists a Learjet 24D and a Cessna 207 in their Takeoff Sound Level Comparison, even though those aircraft hardly ever use LZU? FGF shows them because they are some of the loudest GA aircraft in their class in the FAA noise database (AC 36-3H). And why doesn’t FGF mention that twin engine regional jets (e.g. in their comparison: 737-700, 717-200, A320-211) are 10-20 dBA louder on approach than the 1 and 2-engine prop aircraft that actually use LZU? It’s not because they have the best interests of the general public in mind.

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redmudd 1 year, 11 months ago

Ms. Hastings is a legend in her own mind! Always looking for the next newspaper article or microphone she can be interviewed. Just look at her history of supporting Kennerly, rubber stamping his wishes and wants as a memebr of "his" planning board. And now her campaign is with FGF, Propeller Inc and the Gwinnett Chamber. She is a puppet of these three groups and too blind to figure it out. How much money does a community activist earn?

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CD 1 year, 11 months ago

I would think that even FGF, Landmark, and the Gluttonous Heathens supporting this would understand that, at some point, the marginal dollar pocketed should take a back seat to the reality of the situation: the project is not feasible. The project will endanger the financial health of the county. Whatever the financial gain expected to accrue to the above-mentioned groups, should to be enough so that they can leave the county.

The behavior of the above and Propeller has been a total disgrace. I cannot imagine the greed that is required to not only be willing to place the county in financial danger, but also ruin the quality of life for thousands--not just those in Lawrenceville.

This issue has become a distraction that will allow the heathens to continue their profligate spending, unchecked by calls to further reduce spending versus the typical "knee-jerk" reaction of the "republicans" to raise taxes. This is the issue that we need to be focused on now, but are being sidetracked by this utter nonsense. .

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

These two letters seem to reflect a continuing evolution for the citizen committee.

I believe we heard that a “consensus” SHOULD be reached by the group, if at all possible, as this would best incorporate the advice given to Gwinnett leaders by IMG prior to the committee’s formation. The appearance of such differing recall indicates clearly that this project does NOT meet one of the earliest and oft repeated statements during IMG meetings. (Both in person and phone) That there is strong community support before moving forward.

Paula has long been identified as a champion for passenger service (Hartsfield Lite), that in itself is fine, but she didn’t seem to have the depth of recall from committee meetings prior to December of how information was released and votes taken etc., so perhaps her viewpoint is incomplete - since the addition of Commissioner Howard occurred after the half-time break.

So let’s recap a few of the project highlights: This recent attempt to expand Briscoe BEGAN under Chairman Charles Bannister, so let’s see what was happening within government operations at that time by reviewing the Grand Jury report. No attempt to smear here BUT to capture the OVERALL efficiency of operational judgments made during the period. Communication was one of the failures identified. Link http://www.talkgwinnett.net/stuff/files/101026_grand-jury-present.pdf Commissioner Nasuti`s Addendum to the GJ Report http://www.bobgriggs.com/commissioner-nasutis-addendum-to-the-gj-report/

Now let’s review those who assisted in the formulation of the initial request with the FAA and see if any principles related to Propeller where involved.

http://dacula.patch.com/blog_posts/can-our-elected-officials-assure-us-propeller-did-not-have-an-unfair-advantage#photo-9192198

Initial FAA application indicates a private party is involved but would be indentified at a later date. (Large PDF- get a first snickers first) http://www.gwinnettcounty.com/static/departments/transportation/pdf/GwinnettCountyAirportBriscoeField.pdf

Now let’s see how many companies responded to our RFP - 3 the first time, only ONE the second. Now that low return on the second release response may have been due to the abbreviated time that this item was actually open nationwide. (Half Dec, Jan, Feb) BUT that was the conscious choice of our government leaders, WHAT’S the rush if the concept is indeed sound?

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

Now let’s see what IMG’s response was to taking operations from General Aviation to Passenger service at once? Never done anywhere – they advised decoupling privatization from commercial passenger service in 2 step approach, IF there is strong community support.

So let’s go on to the public charge in August 2011 that county staff were on “the verge of insubordination” being made by one of the commissioners who went through the Grand Jury Inquiry – does this demonstrate in any way an inability to learn or incorporate NEW information that county citizens paid dearly for?

Surely a Grand Jury inquiry is a memorable event in one’s lifetime. (See Grand Jury Report link above)

And of course one would be remise if we forget the Propeller “Vaporware” positions they collected resumes for and asked prospects to email Gwinnett Commissioners to speed approval. http://dacula.patch.com/articles/propeller-airports-now-accepting-resumes#photo-7555710

So everyone, let’s just calm down and please put the paddles back on the “crash cart” now so the coroner can declare the time of death for this decade, if not forever.

Hartsfield airspace plan may have repercussions across DeKalb, Gwinnett

http://www.ajc.com/news/hartsfield-airspace-plan-may-1393556.html

The Federal Aviation Administration proposal calls for allowing planes at the international airport to fly as low as 4,000 feet above the ground and extending the Class B space, which is handled by air traffic controllers. As a result, jets flying into DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, the state's second busiest airport, would need to be lower, longer over neighborhoods stretching from central DeKalb County and well into Gwinnett. Agency reports show the change is needed to handle crowded skies made more busy with the 2006 addition of a fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson. People living near PDK have complained about those problems with the county-owned airport for 20 years. This time, residents and airport officials appear to be on the same side – as do many of the written comments already posted with the FAA.

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JRegan 1 year, 11 months ago

Read these two documents.

The first is the aviation analyst's reponses posed by the committee.

http://www.better-gwinnett.org/articles/q--a-responses-of-aviation-industry-analysts.html

The second is the Majority Report issued by the committee.

http://www.better-gwinnett.org/articles/briscoe-citizens-committee-report.html

These should clear up any confusion about whether Briscoe should be expanded.

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news2me 1 year, 11 months ago

The more these regional airport supporters keep this on the minds of citizens the better. Gwinnett citizens are getting angrier everytime they come up with another excuse to speak out. Keep up the good fight!

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 11 months ago

Obviously, no one from Fly Gwinnett Forward cares to explain the information that they have posted on their website. I am concerned about a few other things, so perhaps one of the supporters of commercial service at Briscoe can answer some other questions. 1. This website explains the noise mitigation program at Hartsfield: http://www.atlanta-airport.com/Airport/NIP/default.aspx 2. Brett Smith told me that he would have all of the homes within one mile of Briscoe soundproofed. Does he plan for Propeller to pay for this, or does he plan for the taxpayers to get stuck with the bill through the FAA Noise Insulation Program? If so, how does that square with all of the airport supporters who claim that this project is being done with private funds and will not cost the taxpayers? 3. If there are going to be no noise issues, as supporters of commercial service at Briscoe claim, why would soundproofing be needed? 4. Is Brett going to pay to soundproof the schools near Briscoe, or will the taxpayers get stuck with that bill, too? Remember that Alvin Wilbanks said that commercial service at Briscoe would have no impact on any individual school in Gwinnett, but the tax revenue would be positive. Parents at nearby schools are still waiting for an explanation, especially the parents of students at Jenkins Elementary School which is only 2000 feet from Briscoe.

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

Perhaps we would be told to call France ...

After all, Propeller would be re- leasing this opportunity immediately upon approval, right?

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 11 months ago

Good idea R. Maybe someone from France can tell us why Gwinnett County Public Schools decided to build an elementary school only 2000 feet from Briscoe, when it was already being proposed that 737s start flying in and out of the airport. The FAA said, “State/local governments and planning agencies are responsible for compatible land development through zoning, promulgating and enforcing building codes that incorporate acoustically attenuating materials into edifices (especially residences), and disclosing the noise impacts on their citizens. Residents and prospective residents in areas surrounding airports should strive to understand the noise problem and measures which can be taken to minimize the effect of noise.” Hopefully, someone from France can tell our state and local government that they are responsible for disclosing the noise impact we can expect from 737s at Briscoe. I’m not sure why the FAA said residents should strive to understand the noise problem, when Propeller and Fly Gwinnett Forward have said that there will be no noise problem. Maybe someone who is familiar with planning and zoning issues can explain why building codes should be enforced that will require soundproofing if there is going to be no noise problem. I’m still curious to learn from Fly Gwinnett Forward what they think is an acceptable number of people to be exposed to unacceptable noise levels. Since no one with Fly Gwinnett Forward will answer that question, could someone from France let us know?

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CD 1 year, 11 months ago

In order to amuse myself, I again reviewed the FGF website and listened to a number of the "community leaders" expressing their views that the Briscoe expansion is a good idea. Unfortunately, several of the "community leaders" both work and reside in different counties. Beyond that, the main reasoning appeared to be strictly for their personal convenience.

I understand personal convenience certainly, but not when the financial risk to Gwinnett is so great, not to mention the undue hardships this would cause for thousands beyond Lawrenceville.

But of course, I have nothing against the French. I have been to Paris twice and was treated well. I'm hopeful that Brett can include some of the pastry that I have enjoyed at CDG while waiting for my plane.

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Katrina 1 year, 11 months ago

Some of these Propeller folks used to run EOS Airlines before it went bankrupt. EOS charged as much as $9,000 for a round-trip flight from New York to London. No doubt champagne (French?) and caviar were served during the flight!

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

But if they flew to China our county leaders could get a discount... Right? Bueller, Bueller?

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

Attention Ms Hastings ... Clean-up on aisle LZ please.

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notblind 1 year, 11 months ago

The whole "personal convenience" argument is a joke. The destinations into and out of Briscoe would be extremely limited. If you need to fly to East Bumblefork every week you would still most likely find yourself making the trip to Hartsfield.

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Katrina 1 year, 11 months ago

No doubt! A friend of mine used to live a few miles from Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, but always ended up flying out of Charlotte.

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Katrina 1 year, 10 months ago

Everyone, please show up tonight, Tuesday, May 22, at 7 PM at the Board of Commissioners meeting!!!!! The commissioners need to know just how many people are opposed to turning Briscoe over to Propeller! I know everyone's pressed for time and has other obligations, but tonight will be CRUCIAL!!!!!! Let's all show up!!!!!

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