Staff Photo: Camie Young
A crowd of residents intent on encouraging commissioners to vote no to a proposal to allow commercial flights at Briscoe Field packed Tuesday's Gwinnett Commission meeting. The group, mostly wearing red, filled the 400-seat auditorium while another 100 were seated in an overflow room.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- After two years of controversy and consternation over a proposal to expand the Gwinnett County Airport, a crowd of hundreds pushed commissioners to make a decision before the upcoming July 31 primary.
An overflow crowd filled the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center on Tuesday for the second month in a row, after a citizens group sent a recommendation against the plan.
Months after Propeller Airports submitted a proposal to privatize the small airfield, eventually allowing for scheduled passenger service, commissioners have not yet scheduled a decision.
"We think you owe it to us to get on the record and vote your convictions," Hugh Crossman said. "To do otherwise ... is something less than courageous. ... This is the only issue for us."
With candidates in the audience, some said the the issue would be decided by votes in the primary, if commissioners do not take action before then.
And Mike Royal, an advocate for the airport expansion because of the promise of jobs, does not agree with much of the crowd on the issue, but he also said he wanted a quick resolution.
"It is dividing our community," he said, calling out anti-commercialization activists for placing robo-calls and using other political tactics. "I would like to have this settled by the election. I think that is in the best interests of the 800,000 citizens of this county."
The privatization issue was delayed in the past to allow a 2011 special election to determine the commission chairperson.
Lawrenceville Councilman Tony Powell said he was concerned that, without swift action, the issue would become part of the upcoming regional transportation sales tax debate, which is a referendum on July ballots.
"It's getting blurred," he said.
After the session, Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who has said she is against commercial flights, said the issue could make a big impact on the upcoming election. But she said county officials are being careful to follow the correct procurement procedures.
A team is reviewing the proposal, she said, and a vote will be scheduled when that is complete.
"It could happen at any point now," she said.