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IMG: County Must Get Act Together Politically

Airport consultants say potential bidders for airport privatization unlikely to get in the middle of a political battle.

As the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners prepares for the next step in the potential privatization of the county-owned airport, the consultants hired by the county are advising the BOC to present a united front.

"If the county doesn't have its act together politically, bidders are not likely to get in the middle," said Infrastructure Management Group (IMG) official Steve Steckler.

Commissioners met with IMG on Sept. 20 to hear their thoughts on privatization and the request for proposal (RFP) process. Pros and cons of commercial passenger service were discussed, but it is clear that decision is a separate issue from whether or not to privatize Briscoe.

A public-private partnership on the airport "is not a decision to allow pasenger service," Steckler said.

A private operator could have a "vision" of commercial service at Briscoe but, according to Steckler, the authority on whether to allow commercial service "still rests with the county."

In May, . Lynette Howard, Shirley Lasseter and Mike Beaudreau were in favor; Chairman Charlotte Nash and John Heard were opposed. Lasseter followed Tuesday's meeting via teleconference.

Nash said Tuesday's hearing was "interesting. ... I wish we had done it before."

The commission chairman said there is no timetable for the next step, . IMG would help the county craft the proposal, and a citizens committee also would be assembled, likely in an "oversight" role, Nash said.

As for commercial airline service, IMG consultant Lou Wolinetz said, "You've got to have a market. (Airlines) are not going to fly here if they don't have a reason to."

Those opposed to commercial airline service at Briscoe cite concerns over noise, health and declining property values.

of Lawrenceville said Tuesday's session "has given me a good feeling in that citizens will be a part of what happens at Briscoe." She describes her position as anti-commercialization, not anti-privatization.

IMG's Steckler said reasons to privatize would be to improve the economic performance of the airport, helping the airport in achieving its goals, and to lower cost and user fees. Currently, Briscoe is run by the county Transportation Department.

Lynette Howard, District 2 commissioner, noted that recently a major corporation housed its entire air fleet at another airport rather than Briscoe. "If we had what they wanted, they would not have gone there," Howard said. "What were we missing?"

IMG further advised Gwinnett to "never make anything concerning the airport a General Fund obligation." Steckler noted that other privatized airports are geared to pay for themselves.

GE September 21, 2011 at 03:26 PM
I believe the concerns about noise, health and property values are very weak oppositions to commerical use of Brisco Field. All are mere speculations. Real jobs and economic growth are assured. There is alot more to Gwinnett County than just the wad around Brisco Field. Don't punish the future by being closeminded today!
North Georgia Weather September 21, 2011 at 03:41 PM
Then perhaps you missed the study that said it wasn't practical? http://www.daculaweather.com/stuff/50207_AMACS.pdf On top of that, if it passes and fails, we all get to pay the price, and the odds are tremendously in favor of it failing based on the 20 or so past experiences with this issue. Assured? Do you work for Beaudreau?
Gary Fox September 21, 2011 at 05:40 PM
GE as a native Georgian & now in Dacula 33 years, I have seen first hand what happens in communities around small airports. I witnessed up close & first hand the demise of the area surrounding Charlie Brown Airport (now know as Brown Airfield) as that airport grew, the communities around it went in the toilet. I saw even closer & with more personal impact the expansion of Peachtree DeKalb Airport. Surrounding areas went in the toilet there also - however now about 35 years later, the surrounding areas have recovered (somewhat). What I describe here is not "speculation" but instead first hand experience. After reading your post I firmly believe you have been hoodwinked & you are the closeminded one. After Tuesday's meeting I came away with a better understanding that this entire matter is politically driven for tax purposes (re:Mike Beaudreu"s personal claim). Airlines are not beating on the door wanting to come to Gwinnett - instead a select few (with the Chamber of Commerce pushing hard from behind) want to (1) privatize (2) commercialize. Problem is they want it to all happen in one step & push people out of their way to get what they want. The "wad of people" you refered to, are tax payers & many of them, taxpayers for MANY YEARS in Gwinnett. I include myself in that group & I'm real sure "we" don't want or NEED to see our communities destroyed as a result of airport expansion/commercialization. Just thought you might want to know.
GregRodgers September 22, 2011 at 07:50 PM
You right...that's your belief. Facts are that in other states when airports open property values plummet. Thats a fact and not a personal belief. Big difference. By the way....jobs are not assured if the airport goes commercial. Did you read what IMG said....."airlines are not going to come if there isn't a market". If there is no market then their will not be jobs and thats even if commercial airlines come. Jeezzzz!!
GregRodgers September 22, 2011 at 07:56 PM
The wad is not only taxpayers, but people who did not bite off more than they could chew and continue to pay taxes and pay for trash pickup that no one wanted. Now you want this "WAD" of good tax paying people to take a loss so the likes of Beaudreau and is pocketlining friends can "potentially" prosper why we lose??....no the WADS are few, and I believe they may be your friends......Mister or Miss GE...
Bev Lougher September 25, 2011 at 03:25 PM
As a proud member of the WADS - if our county commissioners want to do the right thing for the citizens of the county and protect the county's interest, they will listen to the advice given to them by the consulting firm they hired to advise them. We will see.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew September 26, 2011 at 04:19 AM
GE. We know there are some who want the quick fix and the big bucks they think are waiting at the end of the rainbow. Meanwhile, those who have heard the facts presented to date have been led to the position that any discussion of public vs. private operation is of a general aviation airfield, which is really the only viable option at this point. For reasonable people, the commercial position is now dead on arrival after hearing the consultant session on 9/20/11.You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might get what you NEED. Now perhaps the commission can get back to work on the shared services issue - the one in default before the staduim was even built. Will we have yet another election cycle where we are told this still is pending?

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