LAWRENCEVILLE, GA -- Gwinnett County has taken its first step toward possible privatization of its airport, known to locals as Briscoe Field.
Commissioners submitted a preliminary application to the Federal Aviation Administration to be one of five cities chosen for what's called the Airport Privatization Pilot Program. It would allow Gwinnett to turn over airport operatons to a private company. The bonus is that the county would not have to pay back any federal grant money used to upgrade the facilities.
A company called Propeller Investments has expressed interest in taking over the airport and creating ten gates for small commercial flights.
That would likely require an expansion of the runway which right now is 6,021 feet long. At least 7,500 is required for commuter jets and Boeing 737s.
Many who live around Briscoe Field have their reservations including Lillian Taylor. Her famly has lived in the Northdale subdivision for decades.
"I would beg the commissioners 'please, don't do it'. It's already loud enough over our homes," Taylor said.
She's referring to the decision a few years ago to allow small, private jet planes to use the airport. Neighbors fought the move saying they were promised years ago that Briscoe Field would never be expanded or commercialized.
Gwinnett County Commission Board Chairman Charles Bannister insists any firm decision about privatizing the airport is still many months away.
"There will certainly be many opportunities for public input along with environmental and econonmic impact studies," Bannister said.
The FAA has just under 30 days to approve Gwinnett's preliminary application. If chosen, the county says it would then start meeting with 'citizens, other interested parties and stakeholders' to see if moving forward is in the county's best interest.
Under the plan Gwinnett submitted to the FAA, a final application would be finished in about a year.
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