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Gwinnett airport enhancements move forward

Briscoe Field

Briscoe Field

Officials are ticking down a list of projects to improve the Gwinnett County Airport, enhancing its general aviation operations more than a year after commissioners rejected a proposal to allow commercial flights.

Commissioners approved a total of nearly $500,000 in projects for the Lawrenceville airfield, including improvements to the equipment in the air traffic control tower.

“I’m assured this will have no effect on inviting commercial (flights) and will keep this airport general aviation,” said Commissioner John Heard, who stood with Lawrenceville residents who decried a proposal two years ago to privatize and expand the airport to a regional hub for commercial flights in a debate that lasted two years. “This is enhancing general aviation at the airport.”

The projects were all recommended by a citizens committee that met for months to debate the commercial venture but instead recommended the county invest in improving the general aviation aspects of the field.

Transportation Director Kim Conroy said the county is saving money on the projects, after rebidding the tower project to allow separate contracts for the equipment, which varied from replacement of the glass window to a weather tower to radio equipment. The divided bid increased competition and brought the total cost down by about $120,000, he said.

Officials also rebid work on what was once called a “wash rack,” a confusing term when much of the work required paving. Conroy said the bids decreased, even though officials decided to use concrete, a more expensive product than asphalt that lasts longer, producing long-term savings. The county’s construction staff also hauled dirt for the project, saving about $75,000 from the contract, he added.

Commissioners also voted to accept a Federal Aviation Administration grant that will pay 90 percent of the costs of an environmental assessment for rehabilitation of the runway and an extension of one of the taxiways. Construction would follow in future years, if the project is found to be feasible.

“The Airport Privatization Citizens Review Committee came up with over 50 recommendations during their tenure,” Gwinnett Airport Director Matthew Smith said when asked about the status of the group’s report. “While we are trying to implement as many of the recommendations as possible, we have not been able to implement all of them to date. As you can imagine, cost and available funding are constraints on what items are implemented and when. However, we are still moving forward to complete the recommendations.”