Airport Vote on Tuesday’s Agenda, Rejection Recommended
After months of controversy, future of Lawrenceville's Briscoe Field may finally be settled.
A long-awaited decision on whether to privatize Briscoe Field may come Tuesday, June 5.
The agenda for the 10 a.m. work session of the Gwinnett County commission lists an “approval to reject RP039-11, A Public-Private Partnership for the Lease, Operation and Improvement of Gwinnett County Airport Briscoe Field” under new business.
The actual vote would most likely take place during the 2 p.m. business session.
Propeller Investments, a company that had previously expressed an interest in bringing commercial flights to the airport, was the only company to file a proposal before the Feb. 8, 2012 deadline. Brett Smith, the managing director of Propeller Investments, had previously said his company would like to turn the airport into an “origin and destination airport.” That plan included a maximum of 10 gates with up to an additional 80 flights a day, or an increase from the current 14 flights each hour to 18 per hour.
According to documents posted on the Gwinnett County website, the Propeller proposal was reviewed, evaluated and scored in accordance with Gwinnett County purchasing policies. Technical consultant Infrastructure Management Group (IMG) and financial consultant Public Financial Management, Inc. (PFM) provided input, but did not participate in the scoring process.
In a memo, Gwinnett County Director of Transportation Martin Conroy stated, “The evaluation committee noted that while the Proposal included a sufficient team of subcontractors, primarily through Aéroports de Paris Management (ADPM), it provided only minimal detail for the operation, development, and planning for Briscoe Field.”
Conroy’s memo further indicated IMG and PFM expressed concern that parts of Propeller’s proposal were lacking in detail particularly in terms of the transition plan, the community relations plan, the operations and maintenance plan and in the short- and long-term airport development.
Propeller’s proposal also lacked sufficient detail to address concerns regarding the validity of the financial projections including:
- No pro forma or even high-level financial plan to show how anticipated revenues would support the financing.
- Limited information on the major capital improvements of the planned facilities including location, acquisition of current leases, timing, and sources of funding.
- Lack of supporting information on expected traffic volumes (enplanements) and timing of anticipated traffic levels.
- Lack of supporting information on anticipated revenues (amounts for parking, car rental, food sales, retail sales, fuel sales, etc…).
Conroy also noted several other potential issues with the proposal including the fact the county would not see any direct revenue from the arrangement for four years. The forecasted sales tax revenue projections were also called into question.
“While primary or significant funding may come from FAA Airport Improvement Program Funding and GDOT grant funding for airport improvements, it appears from the Proposal that Propeller would expect GDOT and possibly County assistance for roadway access improvements to the airport. It is difficult to estimate the infrastructure improvement cost due to lack of information regarding the proposed terminal location and access points,” Conroy added.
The memo concludes: “Based upon the minimal detail provided in the technical and financial portions of the Propeller Proposal as well as the concerns noted previously, the Department recommends rejection of the Proposal.”
Tuesday’s vote will come less than a week after District 1 commissioner Shirley Lasseter resigned after pleading guilty to charges she accepted bribes in return for her support for a proposed real estate development. During the course of the investigation leading to the charges, Lasseter is accused of seeking an undercover agent's help in using her official position to gain personally from the proposed privatization of the Gwinnett County Airport according to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office.
In May of 2011, Lasseter, along with District 3 commissioner Mike Beaudreau and District 2 commissioner Lynette Howard, voted in favor of directing staff to issue a request for proposals (RFPs) for privatization which could include commercialization. The motion, presented by Beaudreau, replaced one by District 4 commissioner John Heard that would have removed commercial service from consideration at the Lawrenceville airport.