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Can Our Elected Officials Assure Us Propeller Did Not Have an Unfair Advantage?

Can our elected officials assure us that Propeller, who is now the sole bidder on this project, did not have an advantage that was not afforded to other bidders?

In an email dated 11-20-09, an officer of Propeller explained to then-Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Charles Bannister, how to complete the application to the FAA for the privatization of Briscoe Field, and expressed concern about meeting deadlines. It is understandable that taxpayers feel uncomfortable that an officer of Propeller was so intimately involved in the county’s application that he took the lead in explaining how to complete the paperwork and personally followed the application through the FAA, meeting with and making numerous telephone calls to the FAA about the county’s application.

In the application to the FAA, it stated:

“Understanding the impact privatization could have on the community, Gwinnett County instated a public information and citizen involvement program for the airport privatization process.”

We have been unable to ascertain that any such public information and citizen involvement program actually took place before, or even in the months following, the application submittal. 

Do average citizens feel comfortable knowing that Airport Privatization Task Force meetings that were held at the Chamber of Commerce included the registered agent for Propeller and county employees, but not one single representative of an HOA was invited to attend? HOA’s were only to be additions at a later date, but were never added. The meetings of the Airport Privatization Task Force Committee were not subject to the Open Meetings Law, but were subject to the Open Records Law because of the participation of county employees, and most citizens of Gwinnett were not aware that they were taking place.

Can our elected officials assure us that Propeller, who is now the sole bidder on this project, did not have an advantage that was not afforded to other bidders?  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

M.K. OSBORNE February 24, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Sabrina , would the 12 stone meeting count as "Gwinnett County instated a public information and citizen involvement program for the airport privatization process.” in future tense ?
M.K. OSBORNE February 24, 2012 at 08:48 PM
There has been alot of walk throughs or aka as packaged deals or the perception of them . Lets see ..... Airport , Stadium ,Garbage , Hotel at the civic center pending , i think we voted on the gwinnett arena so that would be ok.
Sabrina Smith February 24, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Hi Kevin: No. The 12 Stone public hearing was only planned after Citizens for a Better Gwinnett met with Charlotte Nash and asked for the BOC to allow public input.
Tim Sullivan February 24, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Only 1 company responds to the RFP, I think the issue is DOA. I cannot imagine anyone on the BOC voting to move forward with only a single proposal. There is no competition in the process.
M.K. OSBORNE February 24, 2012 at 09:06 PM
cant think of any then . i guess it just looked good on paper.
M.K. OSBORNE February 24, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Lack of competition shows alot too , if it was such a win win you would think others would be breaking the door down to get in on this .
Ken Clark February 25, 2012 at 02:45 AM
The RFP stated “The Gwinnett County BoC is soliciting competitive sealed bids...”. Gwinnett procurement methods state “in most cases the competitive sealed bid is the preferred method” & that “generally, the following conditions must be met; 2 or more responsible bidders are willing to participate in the process”. The RFP process should have been voided on Feb 8. Common sense tells us that. Gwinnett code effectively tells us that. Unfortunately, the County will tell you that it was a proposal, not a bid process. The County is hiding behind a technicality. How convenient for Propeller. The County continues not to fulfill its commitments. In the preliminary FAA application the County said there appears to be a high level of consensus in the community & among County officials. Really? Is that why the BoC vote to issue the RFP was 3-2 or why the expansion proponents on the CRC carried a 5-4 vote to disband the CRC? Is that why at the Jan 24 BoC meeting there were 30 citizens who spoke against expansion and zero who spoke in favor? The County also said that it will continue to expand and develop a formal public education and public involvement program - to include additional subject matter experts - and that a tool box of educational and communication materials - will be developed. The noise expert lined up for the CRC never happened. I’m still looking for the toolbox. Thank you Sabrina for continuing to bring this information to light.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 25, 2012 at 04:28 AM
Sabrina Smith is wise to raise this question. Some believe logic dictates that the expansion project be terminated at this point, but the issue may not be dead just yet. Trust is a hard thing to rebuild after its been taken advantage of. Several years ago, the Gwinnett County Government eliminated any requirement for a "bid and proposal process" in its trash program, even though competitive bids were verbally promised by our commissioners to its residents repeatedly during official meetings as the franchise "update" project began. Then in 2010, the county attorney stood before the superior court judge requesting the injunction be lifted and the settlement be approved, clearly stated for the record that the bidding process was eliminated and "that under Essential Government Services state provision, no competitive bid is required." This concept is based on a Hall County case where a private service was contracted for a 36 to 48 month period to provide EMS services to it's residents bypassing the normal procurement process. Should the Commissioners decide to press forward, this would be a viable pathway, simply by attempting to define the airport as an "Essential Government Service". Perhaps now would be the time to press each commissioner as to whether they would include the airport as an "Essential Government Service" that should be unfettered by competitive bidding.
Floyd Akridge February 25, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Kevin...I would like to see more competition as well but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's not a winning idea. A business has to be positioned to do a project and if they can't it doesn't matter how good it is. Regardless though...I would have liked to have seen at least 3 bidders.
Floyd Akridge February 25, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Tim...on a personal level...I am disappointed that there was only one company to respond. Capitialism works best with strong competition.
M.K. OSBORNE February 25, 2012 at 08:31 PM
I think it is very good blue sky thinking but not at that location in 2012 , blue sky thinking should occured in the 70-80's followed by a plan to not congest the area with housing and business . Its because of that falure and lack of vision toward the airport that makes it a bad idea now for commercialization but ok for the privatization of the current business model that includes corporate business , with a minor increase . The Garbage concept was a great blue sky thinking ,but poor execution and promotion , they did not sell it first , they used arragance and shoved it down the taxpayers throats , thats why it is hated !
Dacula Truth February 25, 2012 at 11:32 PM
I am the Chairman of Gwinnett Citizens Sick Of All These Groups and wonder who actually belongs to all these different groups and what makes them authorities on subjects that they opine about?? Respectfully Ms. Smith, could you tell us a little bit about your group? For example, how many members do you have, do you have a website, how is your group funded. Basically it would be good for our community to know which groups are legitimate and which aren't since everyone seems to have all these fancy titles and all....
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 26, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Dacula Truth, Sabrina Smith listed as Chairman, Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government has been around for quite awhile, at least since the last county millage increase postponement under Charles Bannister. (increased later) She's been quite active in attempts to evaluate budgeting, fiscal responsibility and some zoning issues thrown in too. If you have attended the monthly County Commission meetings, you know she's no stranger to the citizen podium or it's microphone. She comes down on the side of resident's interests and for such has a great deal of respect. Her group is certainty legitimate and based in Gwinnett..
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 26, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Some residents may see an errie parallel with the airport process to date.
Dacula Truth February 26, 2012 at 02:09 PM
R, that didn't really answer my question but ok you bring up a good point or rather maybe I should ask it a different way. So is Ms. Smith a specialist on property taxes, zoning issues, urban planning and an economist all at the same time? Hmmmm, that's pretty impressive. I would think she could he a good candidate for County Commission no?. It would be better to have someone vastly qualified like her than an out of work architect right?
Floyd Akridge February 26, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Kevin...I do agree with you regarding 70-80's. Some foresight and vision then would have done some real good.
M.K. OSBORNE February 26, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Truth be told , why dont you be the first to tell us who pulls your strings ,since you are seeking the truth .
Sharon Granger February 27, 2012 at 12:54 AM
I'm sure I'm not the only one who missed the second photo posted here. I didn't even know it was there until I got a call from a friend who read it. Look under the picture of Briscoe Field. There is a second photo of an email that was sent from Brett Smith to Gwinnett County back in 2009. I wonder what the county and Mr. Smith have to say about that email now.
Dacula Truth February 27, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Sharon, your a regular Nancy Drew! Unfortunately, the email says nothing,...
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 27, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Actually at a quick glance, she might be an option for commissioner if she would consider it. Based on your inferred standards Dacula Truth, we would/should remove most of those currently serving on the Board of Commissioners. Since we do have professional staff working daily within Gwinnett County Government, one wouldn't have to be a specialist in every area, just extremely inquisitive and open. It's interesting concept that such "experts" would always be required, considering many of those disciplines managed to deliver the 2008 economic debacle. As to this question "out of work architect right?" no response.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 27, 2012 at 04:18 AM
The demonstrated close relationship in the intial process, the extremely short effective response window of what 60 days (Dec/Jan) during the second offical round, the resulting single RFP response from Propeller, the link to the former commision chairman and the results of the Grand Jury report are a lot of coincidences to be overcome.

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