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County Considering Options Regarding Airport Privatization

Airport consultant study expected within the next 30 days.

Gwinnett County Transportation Director Brian Allen said the county has not yet determined whether to issue a new request for qualifications (RFQ) from firms interested in submitting proposals to privatize Briscoe Field.

In 2010, three firms -- American Airports Corporation, Gwinnett Airport, LLC and -- responded to the county's RFQ. The issuance of a request for proposal (RFP) would be the next step in the process of privatizing the airport.

At his June 11 constituent meeting in Dacula, .

“We’ll see what offers we get and then we can talk about fact versus fiction,” Beaudreau said during the meeting.

Allen said legally the county has the right to reject all RFQs and re-advertise. Allen added the county was currently working with the FAA and the county airport consultant to determine what effect that would have on the county’s participation in the FAA Airport Privatization Pilot Program.

“And that’s what we’re not sure of at this time,” he said.

On May 3, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted .

Prior to the vote, District 4 Commissioner John Heard proposed a resolution to remove commercial service from consideration at the Lawrenceville airport. However, Beaudreau proposed a substitute motion to direct staff to issue a request for proposals (RFPs) for privatization that could include commercialization.

In April, regarding the airport in which the majority of those in attendance expressed opposition to commercialization. Others in attendance, including members of the group .

For now, both sides, as well as the three companies that participated in the initial RFQ process, must wait to see what the county decides to do once the consultant study is completed.

"The county should do what's in the best interest of the citizens," said Propeller Investments managing director Brett Smith. "We look forward to progress."

Allen said the consultant study should be complete within the next 30 days.

Jimmy Orr June 14, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Yes, Kristi, keep a whole bunch of us posted on the end results of the consultant's study which should be a matter of public record once completed. If Mr. Smith's words indeed ring true in that the county should do what's in the best interests of the citizens, then the county should drop privatization of Gwinnett County Briscoe Field with a commercial airlines service option.
Andrew McNeil June 15, 2011 at 12:07 AM
We, th e opposition, are more than willing to play the waiting game. However, the recent study by the FAA and a myriad of other organizations yielded the result: 'Commerciailzation of Briscoe Field is not feasible a this time". Rather than commit taxpayers to a risky investment, the Commission must exercise economic constraint. So, who paid for the "study" being conducted by the county? Why is this study even necessary when the Atlanta Metropolitan Aviation Capacity Study, Phase II has already answered the question of feasibility? How much taxpayer money is being wasted on the county study when the AMAC studywas conducted over many months by organizations like the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Air Force/Naval Air Station, the Air Transport Association of America, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few? I hope our commissioners are prepared to justify this study to those of us who pay their salaries. The commission should drop any consideration of commercialization of Briscoe based on the facts presented in the AMAC study. Past experience has taught me that the commission lends deaf ears to their constituents...as one board member said, "you're just made because you're not getting your way"!! Well, I am very concerned...not because I'm not "getting my way" but about the attitude of the commissioners. Where are their "servants' hearts" when such comments are made????
John Cook June 15, 2011 at 06:25 AM
Planning and zoning decisions are based on the Steinberg Criteria. Regardless of the economic benefit to the remainder of the County, if the immediate criteria are not met, the change is not approved. Since commercialization of Briscoe Field is not a planning and zoning issue, the impact on the properties in the immediate area are not of primary importance and consideration. Minor consideration should be given to impact on tax relief and the fantasized and fantastic potential economic benefit. The stadium proponents told us of economic benefit from building stadium. No statistics are available to substantiate any realized benefit to the County. It seems that the economic impact forecasts are not based on scientific data at all. The United States Constitution says that property should not be taken without just compensation. In today’s economy, a government does not have to take square footage or acreage in order to take a person’s wealth. The County will be legally liable for significant loss in value. These issues should be resolved before other financial benefits are even considered. If Briscoe Field was a horse pasture, would we approve an airport with a ten-gate terminal capable of 70 commercial flights per day at that location? Is that 500 acres well-suited for that use? Is that the best use for that parcel and the surrounding properties and neighborhoods? I think the planning board would recommend denial and the BOC would deny such an application.
Jonathan Cates June 15, 2011 at 12:08 PM
Andrew, is the field, Gwinnett County owned, free and clear? We haven't sold it to someone, and are leasing it back, are we?
Andrew McNeil June 15, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Jonathon...As I understand it, Gwinnett County does own Briscoe at this point...I am unsure of the free and clear part...I believe that as long as it remains a general aviation airport, the county does not have to pay the FAA back any money. Jim Orr....do you know for sure?
Robert Johnson June 15, 2011 at 01:37 PM
I am totally against privatization of the airport! This is an issue that should be decided by the citizens. The commissioners that are suppose to represent us don't always do what the citizens of Gwinnett want. Let the people decide in Nov. if they want it are not.
Jim Regan June 15, 2011 at 05:14 PM
See my blog posted on Patch today. From the main page go to blog central.
John Cook June 15, 2011 at 05:42 PM
See some interesting considerations on Jim's blog: http://dacula.patch.com/blog_posts/new-rfq-for-briscoe-field
Jimmy Orr June 15, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Andrew, your question might best be answered by Gwinnett County Financial Services. I would imagine that Gwinnett County is current on all fees, vendor payments, etc. for which payment is the resonsibilty of county government. I do not know whether or not there is any outstanding bond debt for county bonds associated with the airport. Since bond debt is usually spread out, so to speak over 20, 25, 30 years, the county could conceivably be retiring outstanding bonds. Then there could be a mechanics lien filed against the property filed by an outside party to secure payment for labor, materials, repairs etc. that was performed for a business operating on airport property.
Jim Regan June 16, 2011 at 12:20 PM
The county received a $34M grant from the FAA at some point, which does not have to be paid back unless the airport is sold or stops operating as an airport. Under the privitization program the grant would be forgiven. The privitization test program allows one airport to be sold, and four to be leased. The sale was reserved for an existing regional airport - Chicago Midway was the most recent airport to pursue a sale. Briscoe would be leased. When FAA funds are received by an airport it creates an obligation to the FAA which never ends, even if the funds are repaid. So even if Gwinnett repaid the $34M to the FAA, Briscoe still could not be sold without FAA approval. Another aspect of FAA funding is that it prevents local governments from transfering profits generated by airport operations into government general operating funds. This explains why Gwinnett government has shown very little interest in Briscoe, until recently. If privitized, profits generated by Briscoe could then be transferred to a general operating fund. It's always all about the money.
Jimmy Orr June 16, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Beaudreau, Howard, & Lassester, you have been wanting facts. The good news is Jim Reagan has posted some darn good facts on his Patch blog site. The bad news is they are not the facts you wished to hear. You three are not going to lay another stadium "deal" on the backs of Gwinnett County taxpayers. Translated, this means we are not going to allow you to guarantee bond debt for privatization of Briscoe Field with a commercial airlines option on our backs.

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