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Commissioner says passenger service at airport not popular
by Tom Spigolon
December 18, 2013 02:08 PM | 1692 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The county commissioner representing the area surrounding Silver Comet Field said he hopes Delta Air Lines’ CEO understands not all Paulding residents were represented by Chairman David Austin’s recent letter denouncing the Atlanta-based company for opposing possible passenger service at the west Paulding airport.

Post 2 Commissioner Todd Pownall said last week he wrote the letter to Delta CEO Richard Anderson earlier this month because Austin’s earlier letter appeared to come from the entire county commission and “people of Paulding County.”

“It says to the Delta CEO that that was not the view of the board of commissioners, that is not my view and that is not the view of the citizens of Paulding, and especially the ones in my area,” Pownall said.

Pownall said he had “hundreds” of phone calls, texts and emails supporting his position against establishment of commercial air service at the five-year-old facility off Rockmart Highway.

“Even the people who say they might be OK with [commercial service], they’re saying the way it was done was wrong and it’s got to stop,” he said.

Some county residents have criticized the method used to secure a lease and development agreement with Silver Comet Partners. Its leader, Brett Smith, said he was working to attract a commuter airline, in addition to aerospace industries, to land slated for development adjacent to the airport.

Airport officials signed the lease in November 2012 and Silver Comet Partners did not make its plans public until October of this year. Members of the board overseeing airport operations said the vote for the lease was taken publicly and negotiations were done in a manner similar to recruitment of any potential employer.

In addition, Paulding resident Sue Wilkins said she and Anthony Avery plan soon to appeal a Paulding judge’s recent ruling in favor of a bond sale for expansion of the airport’s taxiway.

“We totally believe we’re justified in having the bond denied,” Wilkins said in explaining why they would continue the legal fight against the funding mechanism they maintain would help open the airport to commercial traffic.

The fight may require moving to an appellate court, she said.

“It’s far from over,” Wilkins said. “We’re just going into round two, that’s all.”

Airport officials already have secured a loan up to $1 million from the Paulding County Industrial Building Authority for the construction if they cannot get the bond funding – meaning the runway expansion would occur regardless of bond approval.

Wilkins said she opposes both the bonds and the $1 million loan because both use publicly-backed funding.

“If they do it without the bonds, it won’t be on the taxpayers’ backs,” she said.

She also questioned why airport officials were not taking up Smith’s recent offer. Smith said at a Paulding Chamber of Commerce meeting in November his company was willing to provide funding for the taxiway if the bond funding was not available. Airport officials have said they wanted to seek Industrial Building Authority or bond funding.

“We were all quite surprised that they had to go back on the citizens’ tax dollar when Brett Smith publicly announced that he would come up with the money,” Wilkins said.

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