After years of controversy, the privatization debate may finally be closed.
Tuesday afternoon, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to reject a proposal from Propeller Airports to privatize Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville.
Gwinnett County .
Propeller Investments, a company that had previously expressed an interest in bringing commercial flights to the airport, was the only company to file a proposal before the Feb. 8, 2012 deadline.
The and several issues were noted.
Prior to Tuesday's vote, Gwinnett County Department of Transportation Director Kim Conroy explained the department’s concerns.
“In summary, the evaluation committee, with assistance from our technical and financial experts, provided a well-considered and thorough evaluation of the Propeller proposal and based upon the minimal detail provided in the technical and financial portions of the proposal as well as the other concerns noted, the department recommends rejection of this proposal,” Conroy said.
Conroy’s statement was met with a standing ovation from some of those in attendance.
During the discussion leading up to the vote, District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said the Airport Privatization Citizen Review Committee raised several issues that were not adequately addressed.
“I’ll be perfectly frank with you,” he said. “The effects of this airport expansion will be borne not only by folks in the city of Lawrenceville, as Commissioner Heard has eloquently stated, but also the folks in District 3 in Dacula certainly would be affected near the flight path.”
Beaudreau said he would like the county to look at some of the ideas presented by the citizen review committee and explore ways to make the airport more effective and more efficient.
“It’s been a long, very drawn out process -- certainly taxing on all those involved. And my hope would be that at this point, with this issue behind us potentially here moving forward, that we can bring our community together. We’ve had too many issues here, notwithstanding those that have lately occurred, that have put our community at odds with each other so I would hope that we could move forward in unison,” he added.
The vote to reject Propeller’s proposal was followed by a late addition to the agenda -- a motion to take all necessary steps to withdraw Gwinnett County’s application from the FAA privatization program and to terminate the potential privatization process.
“This gives the proper guidance to staff so that this doesn’t continue to linger in terms of the application that we are not making any progress on,” said Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash.
The motion was unanimously approved.
Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports, was among those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. During the public comment period at the end of the meeting, Smith criticized the board for their actions.
“We can make all the campaign speeches we want now Commissioner Beaudreau ... or we can talk about issues to put more money into the airport … but the bottom line now is that you, commissioners, have not fulfilled the fiduciary responsibility which you had,” Smith said.
Smith, , said the board should have put his proposal before the public.
“You’ve wasted a lot of people’s time,” Smith said.
Smith voiced his opinion that many of the problems could have been avoided had the privatization process been more open and transparent.
“The rest of the country is looking at this, at least in the aviation community, and you have unfortunately made Gwinnett not look good on this,” Smith claimed.
“I’m sorry that you came to this decision and you felt that it wasn’t important to include the citizens in this process,” he added.
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