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planePaulding County Airport Authority (PCAA) received a completed draft from the FAA of the long-awaited second Environmental Assessment ordered as settlement of a citizen-filed lawsuit against Paulding’s airport authority. The FAA document was posted on both the county website and linked to the airport’s website.
In the works for over a year the EA was ordered by a judge as settlement of a lawsuit filed by a group of Paulding County residents claiming that the initial assessment done by the FAA did not take into account the planned commercial service. The ruling and resulting assessment also derailed the county’s previous plan to locate a fire station in conjunction with the new E-911 facility on airport property. Instead, the board voted recently to move the E-911 project to another location.
In addition to the completion of the assessment a public hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 1 in conjunction with the settlement terms. Following the hearing there will be a 10-day period during which questions and comments can be put to consultants that worked on the document, according to Paulding Airport Director Blake Swafford. According to Swafford the document offered few surprises. “If anything was surprising to me at all it was the fact that the noise contours barely even changed; you could put the old contours next to the new ones on separate sheets of paper and not tell them apart -- the impact was virtually non-existent,” he said. Swafford added though that in preparing the assessment document FAA consultants would have anticipated most, if not all, sections of it would be challenged.
“This is a really well-vetted document. Everyone from the consultants to the airport authority to the FAA and everyone in between knows that Delta’s attorneys are going to come after this document and try to punch holes in it, and will probably file suit against the FAA when it’s all said and done. So everybody knows that this thing is going to be challenged; [but] all the I-s have been dotted three or four times, and the T-s crossed several times,” he said.airshow 2
Swafford also said when the FAA issues its ruling he expects there will be a lawsuit filed “within hours” and that it would probably ask for an injunction. Of course with the document completed the airport could eventually seek the 139 Permit that would allow Silver Comet Field and Propeller Investments to pursue limited commercial flights. Post 2 Commissioner Todd Pownall has been working against that eventuality and most recently moved to question the legality of the 139 application. Post 2 is the district in which the airport is located. Commissioner Pownall has stated previously that he’s not opposed to the airport or business connected with it, but did not approve of the way the Propeller deal was handled.
During a rare special-called meeting in October, Pownall asked to add an item to the meeting agenda. The called meeting’s agenda was largely for an executive session to discuss a personnel issue. Pownall’s motion was to “confer with lawyers in connection with the legality of the original handling of the 139 permit signed by Airport Director Blake Swafford.” The move was another swipe at the Part 139 certificate application needed at Silver Comet Field in connection with offering commercial service at the site.
Paulding County's 7-year-old airport, which sits among forested hills off a four-lane state road, would have one gate and handle, at most, four commercial flights a day if the plans were approved for airline service.
But the notion has also drawn some turf-oriented issues over Paulding’s airport becoming potentially a small but growing challenge to major carriers like Delta by offering ultralow-cost carriers, which offer cut-rate tickets with no frills. And recently City of Atlanta officials asked the FAA to deny PCAA from moving forward with plans to add limited commercial service to the airport based on their contention that the county would violate restrictions placed on millions of dollars in grant funding used to build the facility in 2007.
In an August memo to Airport Compliance Specialist Deandra Brooks Atlanta Attorney William Whitner contended that Paulding would violate the original land deed agreement restrictions by adding commercial service to Silver Comet Field and went on to say that the county acted without FAA approval when it transferred from the board of commissioners to the airport authority last year. Paulding airport officials in the past have rejected the claim that they violated any land purchase contract terms with their request to add commercial service to the FAA. A response to a complaint associated with the memo is expected by mid-November.
paulding airport 547x360But regarding the EA document, which was only just issued, Pownall said he had not yet read through it, and was hesitant to comment prior to having done so. Last week’s EA draft completion moves the airport board through both key items of litigation on their radar with the challenge to the airport bonds rejected previously.
On June 30 of last year, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Paulding County regarding a challenge to the issuance of bonds to pay for the widening and extension of the airport’s taxiways. In what was a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the county and the Airport Authority acted properly as relates to the issuance of the bonds, and further that the county provided sufficient public notice and did not violate the Georgia Open Meetings Act. Swafford also reported during the October PCAA meeting that the commercial hangar at the site is finally completed and will begin seeking a tenant. Paulding’s Airport and IBA Boards still envision the state’s first airport in 25 years and an adjacent technology park to become a big draw in the future for aerospace and aviation industries.