Gwinnett Transparency

Have you noticed a distinct absence of any positive news lately about the possible commercialization and privatization of Briscoe Field, Gwinnett’s airport?

There’s a reason.

The one firm proposing vast improvements to commercialize the airport is legally hampered from being a party to any discussion of their proposal now in front of the Gwinnett County Commission. This is not anything unusual; it is simply the format that the county uses when any proposal for a contract is submitted to them. The submitting part(ies) are hindered from trying to influence the Commission’s deliberations as the County goes through the process of evaluating the proposal before them.

So, Brett Smith and his Propeller Investments group must sit meekly on the sidelines, doing nothing to give the hint that they are seeking to expound on their idea that they have submitted to the Commission. Mr. Smith has fully kept his word by not talking about this.

Meanwhile, opponents of the airport commercialization have full liberty to take one swipe at the proposal after another, seeking to influence the Commission against the proposal. Those submitting the proposal can say nothing, even to defend themselves. While it may seem unfair, we can understand that the Commission should not be under a full-court press of lobbying by a group seeking to win any contract. The Commission should study the proposal on its merits, perhaps ask additional questions, and then make their decision in a timely manner.

So for now, the negative charges flow.

One recent comment railed about the “increased traffic” on Georgia Highway 316 that a commercial airport would bring. That comment made me laugh.

Here’s why. The traffic count at Highway 316 amounts to approximately 56,860 automobiles a day. (However, the major bottleneck at Highway 20 and Collins Hill Road is under construction now to improve the intersections by eliminating the signals for through traffic on Highway 316.)

But consider: if the commercialized airport had its full proposed 70 flights a day, averaging 100 person per flight, that would add only 12 percent more traffic, if every traveler was traveling alone! That’s not a severe impact, especially on what would soon be an improved road without the current bottleneck.

Now back to the muzzling of comments.

The Propeller proposal is the only one submitted to the County about the airport question. With there no competing proposal, is there any reason why the county simply doesn’t make this proposal public?

There would be nothing to lose in such a situation, except to slay rumors that twist around this subject. It would even make for a more intelligent discussion of the issues, since critics and proponents each would have the concrete ideas presented by Propeller to the County, instead of rumors and ramifications.

The question about the commercialization of Briscoe Field is one of, if not the most important questions before the present Gwinnett County Commission. The implementation of the privatization of this airport will greatly benefit the county, bringing in enormous economic impact, and greatly improve the air traffic movement for many people in Northeast Atlanta.

We urge the County Commission to move more rapidly on this question, and to open the floor for more discussion by making the Propeller Investment proposal public.

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Editor's Note: This story first appeared at GwinnettForum.com. Photo provided by author.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.