The board of commissioners voted 3-2 to delay a decision on accepting the $300,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation for the study, which a court-ordered agreement required before Silver Comet Field could be designated a Federal Aviation Administration Part 139 facility which allows commercial flights.
The debate began after Commissioner Todd Pownall motioned to delay action and Commissioner David Barnett motioned to approve the grant. Each failed for lack of a second, though Commissioner David Carmichael said he did not hear Barnett’s motion.
Commissioner Tommie Graham said the board needed to act on the controversial issue.
“We’ve got to deal with it some way. It’s not going to go away,” he said. “You’ve got to have an environmental assessment out there.”
He noted the airport authority and, ultimately, the county government will face legal challenges either way the airport goes on the commercial plan, both from opponents who have filed numerous legal challenges and from Silver Comet Partners which signed a contract in 2012 with airport officials to allow it to provide commercial service.
Graham and Pownall, a commercialization opponent, also said they needed more time to study the 60-page grant document before they could vote after receiving it the day before the meeting.
Carmichael said he was tired of waiting to move forward with commercialization plans. However, he later told Pownall “out of respect to you and Tommie” he would vote to delay action on accepting the grant until the Sept. 9 meeting.