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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.

Kelly Hanley May 09, 2011 at 06:19 PM
I have always thought that Gwinnett County needs a better airport. The General aviation is great but we need to open it up for commercial flights to bring more business, jobs and competition to the county. I am all for privatization. Private busines has always been more effecient than government.
BJ Van Gundy May 10, 2011 at 11:42 AM
Well said Commissioner. I'm proud to call such an intelligent and reasonable person my friend.
David B. Manley May 11, 2011 at 04:52 AM
Kelly Hanley and BJ Van Gunden--Ditto. Its nice to see their restrained and well stated thoughts rather than the rantings of a reactionary minority.
Ground Chuck May 12, 2011 at 03:15 AM
Thank you Lynette for your professional overview and explanation of the issues. Now a reminder...you represent Norcross (the City) as well. Please make sure you are covered by the Norcross Patch.
Lynette Howard May 13, 2011 at 04:23 AM
Thank you all for your support. Charles: I was told the Norcross Patch was going to run it like the Lilburn Patch did. I don't know what happened.
Laura Sullivan May 13, 2011 at 05:37 PM
It was also posted on Norcross Patch. Thank you for your input, Lynette. -Laura (editor of Norcross Patch)
Steve Jones May 13, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Privatizing Briscoe Field: Yes, this would be a good move. Small commercial jets are no louder then the larger private jets. As long as there are restrictions on how many flights and the time of day that they operate. Studies will be done and until then nobody can make any informed decisions.
Rick Schneider May 14, 2011 at 01:59 PM
Commissioner Lynette Howard is a huge hypocrite! Lynette wants to ignore the wishes of the residents of Lawrenceville to "control their own future" because she thinks the residents surrounding the airport should do what SHE says they have to do. She then wants Peachtree Corners to be able to control their own destiny so that they “maintain their home values”. So it is OK for the county commissioners to force the residents of Lawrenceville, who have spoken through THEIR city leaders in a resolution opposing the commercialization of the airport, to accept the wisdom of the BOC to tell them what to do, but not Peachtree Corners. Why do commissioners such as Howard, Beaudreau, & Lassiter listen more to Chamber of Commerce than the people who elected them? These 3 should all resign.
Tina May 16, 2011 at 03:02 PM
The airport belongs to the entire county, not the residents of Lawrenceville. I recognize that those who live closest to the airport will be most affected, but this does not mean they get to make the decision. I am in favor of gathering all the facts before making a decision. Rick - you mention being opposed to commercialization of the airport, which is a different topic. As far as I know we are discussing privatization at this point, not commercialization, necessarily.
Rick Schneider May 16, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Tina no you are correct the commisioners in their vote could of taken commercial aircraft off the table by Mr. Heards motion, but refused to. So they are talking commercialization. In fact Mr. Brett Smith from Propeller we quoted in a meeting in saying " we can't privitize Briscoe Field without commercial aircraft it is not ecomonically feasable". I am not against privitizing the airport as long as it does not cost the taxpayers any money, but lets put the argunment in another light. For example let's say Briscoe was now located along PIB, bounded Medlock Bridge, Spalding Drive, and Peachtree Parkway and not in Lawrencevile. Would you and Lynette want Commercial 737 aircraft to now be allowed to land there? I don't think so! NOT IN MY BACKYARD! If this is such a successful program why has since 1996 only 1 airrport done it and failed and defaulted which is Stewart Field in New York? If Propeller or whoever defaults on Briscoe are you and the taxpayers of Gwinnett County prepared to take over the $150 to $300 million debt incurred the County Tax base? We the tax payers will be responsible for payment if defaulted on. Remmember the trash plan, Coolray Field? Privitizing may be OK, commercial flight will be bad!
BJ Van Gundy May 17, 2011 at 01:09 AM
What debt do you speak of Mr. Schneider that will be incurred? I wasn't aware that there were proposals out there yet, let alone that there was anything out that suggested that there would be such debt as you describe. Regarding the issue of whether or not we in Peachtree Corners would be for or against this if it was in some hypothetical place as you described is moot and irrelevant to the discussion. While the area that you described is close to the same size as Briscoe, there is NOTHING comparable with regard to the residential density in the surrounding area. For your question to be fair, in addition to dropping the airport into your described triangular space, you would also have to add to stipulate that there are NO houses in the area behind the Forum, that entire area of Berkeley Lake to the east of your triangle is uninhabited, as well as the area to the South being uninhabited. Basically you chose a triangle of area that has residential property directly bordering it all around. Something that can't be said about the airport on even one side. This is the problem with the speculation and "what if" silliness of the anti-commercialization crowd. "Let's make things up like noise levels and flight patterns... and now let's compare the area around some triangle in Peachtree Corners (that's not comparable) to the area around Briscoe Field to make our argument.
BJ Van Gundy May 17, 2011 at 01:11 AM
To help with comparisons of the triangles described above. Go to this google map page and alternately click on the two red boxes on the left in the browser. This will take you back and forth between the two described triangular areas. Note the residential density and ask yourself if Mr. Schneider's comparison of these two areas is an honest comparison: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=211498939965916305181.0004a36e1763244fa9f06&ll=33.979951,-84.184456&spn=0.042562,0.097504&z=14
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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