The Paulding County Chamber of Commerce is set to gather to discuss plans geared towards commercialization of the Paulding Northwest Airport, a move that’s generated considerable skepticism from residents.
Attending the event will be Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Investments, which finds itself in the eye of the increasingly controversial storm.
Though brokered by the airport authority (PCAA) a full year ago, the deal made its public debut only last month, sparking complaints geared towards a lack of transparency.
Propeller’s involvement as developer in the deal was hidden by the codename “Silver Comet,” with the company having previously met backlash over attempting something similar in Gwinnett County, only to be stonewalled by an uninterested public.
When finally made public, concerned residents were informed they had merely 60-90 days to prepare from the inarguable impact that would result from commercialization, chiefly in the forms of noise, pollution, and a likely onslaught of traffic.
Residents subsequently expressed outrage, with an 11Alive report noting “many angry residents still oppose the flights, claiming the decision was made in private without any public hearings.”
Reports also indicate the PCAA shirked environmental requirements necessary for readying such an expansion.
Plans submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration allegedly failed to disclose the expansion proposal. Doing so would have likely stalled the timetable for starting commercialization service, with the environmental inspection requirements becoming more dubious.
Others have expressed doubts towards not only Propeller Investments, but the county’s choice of airline, Allegiant, which has a history of picking up the stakes and abandoning ship on local airports.
The airline left Freeland, Michigan following the community’s sinking $175,000 into a project similar to Paulding County’s current venture.
Worse still was a 2006 contract with the Worcester, Massachusetts airport. Though supposed to last 5-years, Allegiant pulled out nine months in, leaving taxpayers on the hook for a $2.3 million deficit.
Environmental concerns still abound with the rushed process and regulatory end-around, too.
Despite intending to enroll in a voluntary FAA noise mitigation program, PCAA has yet to do so. That would secure funds to assess the impact of increased noise, providing some considerations for taxpayers impacted by the secret deal.
Beyond that, all noise tests using Allegiant’s older, louder preferred MD-80 aircraft failed. A since-publicized study showing no additional impact did not place the craft in the field.
With the clock ticking, these and other concerns are at the forefronts of Paulding County residents’ minds, as well as many others in the area. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office, as well as Delta Airlines, have both expressed apprehension at the process, and the FAA has deemed the project “ultimately the responsibility of the local community.”