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Paulding commissioners kept airport project quiet for fear of losing to competitors
by Adam Elrod
October 11, 2013 02:09 PM | 2841 views | 4 4 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Some Paulding County commissioners said they knew about a lease to a high-profile aerospace investment company for more than a year but kept it quiet to keep from potentially losing the project to competitors.

At last week’s commission meeting Post 2 Commissioner Todd Pownall, whose district includes the Silver Comet Field at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, said he was unaware of the lease with New York-based Propeller Investments. Propeller plans to recruit aerospace businesses and invest in airport facilities that could lead to commercial air service.

Post 1 Commissioner Dave Carmichael and Post 3 Commissioner Tommie Graham agreed they knew about the lease since 2012.

Graham said he was invited by the Paulding County Industrial Building Authority and Airport Director Blake Swafford to sit in on a meeting with Propeller in August 2012.

Brett Smith, the company’s managing director, and Graham then traveled to New York state and visited three other airports to see how they function, which proved to him such facilities could coexist with surrounding communities, Graham said.

“I think it is good,” he said.

Carmichael was a member of the Paulding County Airport Authority at the time the agreement was voted on in October 2012. He was elected to the county commission the following month.

Propeller is the largest aerospace and aviation investment firm in the U.S., which will help them recruit aerospace businesses to Paulding, he said.

By bringing in more business this will allow residents to stay in the county for employment, as well as bringing in tax revenue, he said.

Carmichael said if one midsized aircraft was stored in a hanger at Paulding airport it could bring more tax revenue than 27 average homes.

He said he voted for the lease when he was a member of the airport authority.

“I am a strong proponent for the airport.,” Carmichael said.

Post 4 Commissioner David Barnett said he was informed about it in a meeting about two months ago.

“I think it is going to be a good thing,” he said.

He is looking forward to the jobs the partnership could bring, Barnett said.

Commission Chairman David Austin said during last week’s commission meeting all commissioners were sent an email about the agreement, and said Pownall chose not to return the email or phone calls about the lease.

Austin also insinuated he could not trust Pownall with the information since they did not tell him about the lease later.

“Does that tell you something?” Austin told Pownall. “Does that tell you anything about trust?”

Pownall said he received a call from Swafford Oct. 3 in the afternoon saying he would like to talk about something, but Pownall was not able to answer or call him back. That night Pownall saw the story on TV news about the agreement, he said.

Pownall said he supports the Propeller lease. However, he said he was “hurt” that he was not informed.

Residents should have had a chance to voice their opinions, and the lease should have been voted on by the commissioners, Pownall said.

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