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.