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Authority OKs funding for airport assessment
by Tom Spigolon
July 23, 2014 02:03 PM | 2327 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Paulding County Airport Authority last week voted to accept a state grant to fund an environmental assessment required before it can receive federal approval for planned passenger airline flights at Silver Comet Field.

The assessment was part of an agreed settlement of a legal challenge filed by airport commercialization opponents. It must be done before the Federal Aviation Administration will approve passenger service at the Rockmart Highway facility.

Airport director Blake Swafford told authority members completion could take up to a year based on “what’s found” on the 60-acre airport property.

“This is really the beginning of the process on the environmental assessment,” he said.

The airport’s engineering consultant, the Michael Baker Corp., and the federal agency negotiated the areas to be assessed before the agency sought public comment on the plan earlier this year, Swafford said.

“The [aviation administration] did receive numerous comments and suggestions on the scope and they then proposed additional changes to us based on comments they received from the public,” he said.

Airport officials must calculate the final costs of assessment before knowing the grant amount. Swafford asked the authority to approve the grant without a value because the terms would be the same no matter the value. It also served to expedite the process because GDOT was sending the grant documents long before the next authority meeting Aug. 20.

The aviation administration generates the grant funds through taxes on aviation fuel and airline tickets. They then give block grants to states including Georgia, where GDOT administers their amounts to the state’s 104 airports.

During the meeting’s public comment section, Paulding resident Cathy Helms asked airport officials to make sure the assessment included the amount of wildlife on the airport site.

Authority members also voted to accept the terms of a $3.6 million bond issue to widen its taxiway last week after the Georgia Supreme Court’s recent ruling to uphold the financing method. The 10-year bond will be placed with Hamilton State Bank, authority members were told.

The Paulding Board of Commissioners also must approve the terms. However, residents opposing the bond have filed a petition to the state Supreme Court asking it to reconsider its decision.

In other action, authority members approved a new public participation policy based on similar policies in neighboring jurisdictions, authority attorney Tom Cable said.

The policy bans placards, banners, signs and distribution of flyers from the meeting room. It also prohibits a speaker from using obscene language and threats of physical violence, and bans “shouting, booing or hissing or interrupting a speaker recognized by the chairperson” during the meeting.

“It’s basically common sense,” Cable told authority members.

Paulding resident John Hyden, who was seated in the audience wearing a T-shirt opposing airport commercialization, said he did not have a problem with the policy in general, calling it “good common courtesy.”

Although he had never brought a sign or placard to a meeting, he felt it could be a challenge to rights of free speech.

“It makes me want to be bolder and try to sneak [a sign] in,” he said.

Also last week, authority members heard work on a new corporate hangar was nearly complete, with only some paving and installation of sidewalks remaining.

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