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Still Confused About the Issues of Privatizing Briscoe Field?

Here are the facts which should help dispel any confusion on just what the issues are that are causing so much discussion.

Editor's note: Dist. 2 Board of Commissioner Lynette Howard provides important details to help understand the current issue of privatizing Gwinnett's Briscoe Field. Learn what is fact and what is fiction about this current hot-button issue that has divided both politicians and citizens in our county.

I want to give people a few of the facts.

1. Briscoe Airport belongs to Gwinnett County and is not up for sale.

2. Any fees collected from the operation of airport must be use exclusively for the airport under current law.

3. Privatization would potentially allow the county to collect fees from the airport.

4. Briscoe has a runway that is 6,000 feet long. There may be safety reasons for extending the runway 500 feet. This is an addition of 8 percent. This has nothing to do with privatization.

5. The county has conducted no studies to evaluate the financial impact of privatization.

6. Briscoe is a General Aviation airport which is subsidized by federal grants. General aviation must remain at our airport without negative impact.

7. The road traffic to and around Briscoe is horrendous. Highway 316 and the crossroads must be redesigned to move people efficiently off the highway.

8. Signage must be upgraded at and around the airport. This will prevent unnecessary trips and decrease traffic. It will also brand the airport as a Gwinnett asset.

9. The grounds of the airport need to be improved. When the jail site across the street is more appealing, there is a problem that needs to be corrected.

10. Privatization is an option to change the business structure of our airport. This is separate from the introduction of commercialization.

11. If privatization occurs, there are means to restrict the parameters of how it operates.

12. Just because someone says 737 does not mean 737s will be allowed.

I have had many e-mails and phone calls from all over the county about our airport. For every person that is against, there are more than two for. People want jobs to come back to Gwinnett, they want the roads to improve and they want our airport to look and function better. 

When the Request for Proposals (RFPs) come back, we can then start the evaluation of data.

I promised to work from fact and that is how I will evaluate the future of our airport. I appreciate all the advice, but this is too important not to base my decision on fact. I am a scientist who works in the realm of reproducible results. I also analyze the best and the worst practices to obtain the most ideal situation.

I have sought out experts to help me understand the terms and dynamics of our airport. I have studied, read, taken notes and asked questions. I will find my answers and make the best decision only after I am satisfied that we have the best solution for all parties. The parties are homeowners, business owners, general aviation pilots, Gwinnett citizens, the board of commissioners and me. I must live with my decision that I was elected to make.

Throughout my life there have been situations that seemed to have no solution for the parties involved. Every single time, when the problems were identified, solutions could be effectively found.

I don’t know how this will play out, but only together with correct data, can we make our community better.

Art Sheldon May 17, 2011 at 05:30 AM
Lynnette, I appreciate your attempt to inform but feel it the information is a cross between current information and what is being discussed for the future and maybe somewhat confusing. I wiull attempt to clarify some of the information. Number 1 the discussion is about potentially SELLING the Airport albeit leasing maybe an option. The city of Atlanta gets revenue from H-J airport for use other than at the airport. If the runway would be extended for safety reasons that would be becuase someone wants to fly larger heavier plans into and out of Briscoe. The state DOT is already working on a project to improve traffic west of the airport and projects to ease traffic east of the airport have been placed on the unrestricted list for the TIA tax to be voted on in 2012. Any entity privatizing and/or commercializing the airport should be required to pay a fair share of the costs for the road improvements in the area of the airport. As the current airport operation is a break even situation the only way the airport would be privatized is if the new operator was to improve air traffic to generate new additional revenues including the property tax they would be paying and any profits they might like to make.
Jim Regan May 17, 2011 at 11:58 AM
According to Gwinnett County's GIS system 67,756 residents live within a three mile radius of Briscoe Field, in 23,526 homes. That is not a lightly populated area and although I have not done a density study for the mentioned Peachtree Corners-Berkley Lake- Norcross area, it might be quite comparable or even a higher density.
Jim Regan May 17, 2011 at 12:14 PM
Several incorrect statements here. 1) FAA privitization program will not allow Gwinnett to sell Briscoe, it can only be leased. In this lease situation, which is stated in the county's FAA application, the county will be REQUIRED to continue operating the airport if the "private operator" fails. The "private operator" cannot sell or sublet their lease, responsibility comes back to the county. 2) Revenue generated by Hartsfield is not received by the City of Atlanta, profits are required by the FAA to be reinvested in Hartsfield. Which is the same situation currently at Briscoe. 3) Briscoe is break-even, the county has put no effort into improving or enhancing the facility to make it attractive for corporate and general aviation. Does the airport even have a marketing/sales person? 4) Why are you proposing we use TIA funds for improvements when the citizens haven't even voted on this yet? It's somewhat naive to think in the current economic environment that citizens are going to vote to approve a tax increase. So whose going to pay for Hwy 316 improvements when TIA fails. Residents have been waiting for 18 years for promised improvements t0 Hwy 316 at Hwy 20 and Collins Hill.
Jim Regan May 17, 2011 at 12:31 PM
Rick's probably talking about the $140 M Brett Smith said his is going to spend to build a 10 gate terminal and who knows how much to replace and lenghten the runway to a safe length. Article in the AJC said Hartsfield is spending $45 M to extend one runway 500 feet. Cost for 500 foot extension at Briscoe probably won't be as much, but we were told by Steve Lemelin that the entire runway would have to be replaced because the concrete will not support the weight of larger passenger jets. No idea how much that would cost. The county's FAA application also shows two additionals runways, here again no idea how much it will cost to build these new runways, but it will be expensive. If Brett doesn't pay cash for these improvements the county will have the secondary liablity of these debts for years to come. Worst part is the county will have no control over how much is spent or how it is spent, we will only have the liablity if Propeller fails. Of course everyone needs to be aware Propeller is a start up company that has never operated an airport and has no operating history. So who wants the county to take a $140 M plus gamble on a start up company that has no experience or history? Is that a savvy business strategy? Is now the time to build a new airport, with a down economy? Delta and most other airlines are reducing the number of flights. Airlines are grounding small regional jets and transitioning to more economical 737s. This is a very unstable industry.
BJ Van Gundy May 17, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Jim and Rick. I know that this is trite.... but everytime you use the word "if" I think of the old "if frogs had wings they wouldn't bump themselves in the butt when they jumped". Once again. No proposal has been formally received. Mr. Smith has not said anything along the lines that he was going to go out and borrow money with the County as a co-signer.... so quit coming up with "ifs" that are simply fear mongering. Regarding the density issue. I believe that I clearly pointed out that I was discussing the density ADJACENT to the Airport location vs. the comparison that Rick introduced with his choice of the triangle in Peachtree Corners. My point WASN'T how many homes are within X number of mile radius.... although, I'm VERY certain that if you did check population in a 3 mile radius of the Peachtree Corners location originally referenced, that it would bury your 67K number. My point is simply that y'all make comparisons that aren't valid to begin with, i.e. this one, Hartsfield, etc. and then think you've made a valid point. I'm just simply showing you that the Peachtree Corners area that was referenced was NOTHING like the Briscoe area. But for conversation... what is the population within 1 mile of the airport, 2 miles? Show me that 1, 2 and 3 are comparable to the populations for the Peachtree Corners triangle described and I'm good. Otherwise.... I'll continue to point out the folly of the comparison.

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