Thursday, May 27, 2010

FAA Aproves Briscoe Field Airport Pre-App

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has accepted a preliminary application from Gwinnett County that reserves the fourth of five slots for Briscoe Field under the Airport Privatization Pilot Program. This gives Gwinnett the green light to move forward with the process of selecting a private manager and operator, County officials intend to continue to analyze whether privatization and the potential addition of scheduled passenger air service is in the best interest of Gwinnett residents. There will be substantial opportunities for public participation throughout the process.

Should the County decide to move forward with privatizing the airport after analyzing the potential impacts, two steps would remain. First, the County would negotiate a final operating agreement with a private operator that has demonstrated the financial resources and management capability to improve and operate the airport. And second, the County would submit the final application to the FAA. There is no timeline for the FAA to complete the review of the final application.

The FAA’s final approval is based on a number of conditions, including the private operator’s ability to ensure continued access to the airport on reasonable terms, ensure continued safe operations, ensure continued maintenance and improvements, ensure security, mitigate noise and environmental impacts, and provide for the continued operation of the airport in case of the private operator’s bankruptcy or other defaults.

“The Board of Commissioners and staff are looking forward to launching the lengthy process of studying potential airport operations and management opportunities,” said Board Chairman Charles Bannister. “Like most communities today, Gwinnett is looking to identify significant new revenue sources through efficiencies, user fees and privatization or sale of valuable assets. Any

financial benefit for taxpayers must be balanced with safety and other impacts to our community. In addition to exploring the environmental and economic impacts, we will conduct an extensive community outreach and involvement program. I expect County staff to meet with citizens and other interested parties and stakeholders throughout the process.”

“Today it’s more important than ever for local government to think outside the box about new ways to provide services while saving tax dollars,” said District 1 Commissioner Shirley Lasseter. “The potential privatization of Briscoe Field falls right into that category.”

District 2 Commissioner Bert Nasuti added, “Privatization holds significant revenue potential for the County, and the prospect of airport improvements could boost our economic development efforts in the short-term and for years to come. I believe that community input is important and look forward to the process being inclusive for all concerned.”

“This is the very first part of a long, thorough process of seeking public opinion and reviewing the costs and benefits to the community,” said District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau.

“With the airport located inside my district, I will make sure that community input plays an important role in the decision-making process,” said District 4 Commissioner Kevin Kenerly. “Briscoe Field needs to continue to be an asset to the County as well as a good neighbor to my constituents.”

Congress authorized the pilot program in 1996 “to explore privatization as a means of generating access to sources of private capital for airport improvement and development.” Chosen airports would be exempt from repaying federal loans invested in their facilities.

Briscoe Field has a 6,021-foot runway on 500 acres northeast of Lawrenceville. It is capable of handling most corporate jets.