Oct. 29--In another challenge to plans for a second commercial airport in metro Atlanta, two Paulding County residents are taking legal action to block $3.4 million in airport authority bonds that would fund a taxiway expansion.
The court filing Monday by residents Susan Wilkins and Anthony Avery came after they and other residents voiced opposition to the Paulding airport's plan to attract airline service.
They took the unusual step of filing a motion to intervene in a routine bond approval.
-- Airport plan blindsides Paulding residents
-- Paulding airport plan born in secrecy
"We asked them to stop at both board of commissioners meetings, and they voted to pass the bonds, so we did what we had to do," Wilkins said.
The Paulding airport authority and county commission approved the bond issue last week, and the required court approval of such action was scheduled for Monday in Paulding Superior Court.
Now, the county and airport authority have until Friday to respond to the filing, after which a hearing could be scheduled by Judge Tonny Beavers.
The airport authority quietly approved a lease nearly a year ago with Silver Comet Terminal Partners LLC to attract airline service and businesses that could generate jobs at the airport. Silver Comet was created by the principals in Propeller Investments, which tried to bring airline service to Gwinnett's Briscoe Field. That effort was thwarted last year by citizen opposition, which backers of the Paulding plan hoped to avoid.
But opposition quickly arose earlier this month when they unveiled their plan, which calls for limited service by a yet-unnamed airline. Wilkins created a Facebook page called Stop Paulding County Airport Expansion and launched an online petition.
In Monday's motion to intervene in the bond issue for the taxiway work, Wilkins and Avery claim the bond proposal "is not not sound, feasible and reasonable," that the process the airport authority used to approve it was illegal and that it is improper for the county to pay for part of the project when "the real beneficiary" is a private entity -- Silver Comet.
The pair, represented by Atlanta attorney Charles McKnight, also say the airport authority did not comply with open meetings law because minutes of certain meetings do not list reasons for closing parts of them to the public -- as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this month.
That, they contend, means certain actions of the airport authority are not binding under state code, and should result in the court denying approval of the bonds.
Outside the courtoom, Paulding airport director Blake Swafford said: "The airport authority is issuing bonds for work on the airport, so I don't think you could have anything more appropriate."
If the bonds don't go through, "we'll have to set up alternate funding," Swafford said. "We'll continue to move forward."
He said commercial loans are a possibility. Another possibility is that Silver Comet could pay for the taxiway work, for which the airport authority plans to seek Federal Aviation Administration funding for reimbursement. Silver Comet had already agreed to cover bond repayments during any time lag until FAA reimbursement.
"This won't derail any of our plans to create jobs and economic development for Paulding County," said Brett Smith, chief executive of Propeller Investments.
"We believe in this initiative and in the vision of the county's leadership, which is precisely why we agreed to guarantee the airport bond issuance in the first place," Smith said.
Swafford said he thinks citizen scrutiny is appropriate but won't derail the project.
"I think it's appropriate for individuals in the county to make sure government is operating within the bounds of what we're supposed to," Swafford said. "And in the end, I think they'll find we are."
Copyright 2013 - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Paulding County Airport Authority (GA) unanimously approved issuing $3.4 million in bonds to pay for a taxiway expansion.
Paulding County, northwest of Atlanta, and a New York City venture capital firm say they are on the verge of cracking a monopoly in metro Atlanta by establishing rival airline service outside...
Delta Air Lines' to fight plans to add commercial air service at a small regional airport in Paulding County