Barrow County residents oppose airport expansion

WINDER, Ga. - Some Barrow County residents don't trust county commissioners' declaration that they are not interested in turning a local landing strip into an overflow facility for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Earlier this month, the commission passed a resolution stating that commissioners aren't eyeing the Northeast Regional Airport as a potential expansion airport for Hartsfield.

The statement was meant to quell suspicions that leaders had sights on a much bigger airport when they condemned land to expand the Barrow County airport and accepted Federal Aviation Administration funding for a new instrument-based landing system, said Commission Chairman Doug Garrison.

Though critics found the resolution encouraging, some say they worry the commission and the Barrow County Airport Authority could plan to further expand the airport or turn it into a hub for freight airplanes.

Mr. Garrison said a public furor erupted earlier this fall when the commission condemned 15 acres. The land buy came shortly after local business leaders met in hopes of reviving the northeast Georgia Surface and Air Transportation Commission - a group charted by the Georgia Legislature in 1989 to locate a site in northeast Georgia for a second Atlanta airport. The original group dissolved around 1992 after improvements were made at Hartsfield and some carriers serving Hartsfield went under, freeing up space.

But the move to re-establish the authority and decisions to improve Barrow County's airport are separate, Mr. Garrison said. The airport required more land for the FAA to install a new instrument-based landing system, which has been in the works for years, airport Director Glen Boyd has said.

"Those two things happened at the same time, but they had nothing to do with each other," Mr. Boyd said.

The resolution passed by commissioners this month does not preclude future Barrow County commissioners from working to turn Barrow County's airport into a 20- or 24-gate airport to relieve air traffic.

It's not something that these commissioners want," Mr. Garrison said. "But that is the way this commission feels right now. As the commission changes, its stance on the airport could change as well."


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