Politics

Lawsuits Grow In Battle To Commercialize Paulding Airport

Silver Comet Terminal Partners, which is working to bring commercial passenger service to Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, has filed a federal complaint against Paulding County.
Silver Comet Terminal Partners, which is working to bring commercial passenger service to Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, has filed a federal complaint against Paulding County.
Credit STEVE REEVES PHOTOGRAPHY / RION RIZZO / CREATIVE SOURCES PHOTOGRAPHY, INC.

A company working to bring commercial passenger service to Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport has filed a federal complaint against the Paulding County government.

The company, Silver Comet Terminal Partners, a subsidiary of New York-based Propeller Airports LLC, said it’s just trying to figure out who’s in charge.

This new lawsuit is just the latest in a debate over commercialization of the airport.

Propellers Airports CEO Brett Smith said his company has stopped making bond payments to the county.

“We tried everything in our power not to go this route,” Smith said. “We tried on multiple occasions to talk to the Board of Commissioners. They literally don’t even want to sit down and have a discussion. I am not sure how that’s in the best interest of the people they’ve been elected to serve. It’s atrocious.”

Smith said he wants a judge to clarify who has the authority to do what since the county has also filed its own lawsuits against the Paulding County Airport Authority, arguing the contracts Smith’s company signed with the airport are not valid.

Two of the defendants named in the lawsuit are the Paulding County Airport Authority and the Industrial Building Authority, which have a good relationship with the plaintiff.

“I’m not sure I’d be surprised at anything at this point,” said Blake Swafford, Paulding County’s airport director. “With two lawsuits against the airport and the Industrial Building Authority from the county and another five or six lawsuits from a citizen group, lawsuits just seem to be the norm at this point.”

Susan Wilkins is founder of Citizens For A Better Paulding County, a core group of 50 residents who are pushing to stop commercialization of the airport.

“[People] have been told this will bring lots of jobs instead of the truth that the jobs are questionable,” Wilkins said. “Whether it succeeds or doesn’t, your taxes are at risk. Your property values would plummet. Congestion, crime would increase.”

Wilkins is a plaintiff on three pending lawsuits against the Airport Authority and Industrial Building Authority regarding alleged misuse of tax dollars, alleged violations of open meetings and its application for commercial service with the Federal Aviation Administration. Wilkins settled out of court on another lawsuit against the FAA because it didn’t require the airport to do an environmental assessment. The assessment was finally completed last fall.

“[County commissioners] have tried to remove the airport authority members, which they did not have the ability to do and tried to withdraw the application for commercial service with the FAA,” Swafford said. “Now they have sued the airport authority to try to get a verdict to say that we don’t have the ability to do the commercial service, so the commissioners are doing everything they can possibly think of at this point in time to try to block it.”

Swafford said Silver Comet Terminal Partners has a good relationship with the airport but naming them in the lawsuit will force a judge to clarify who has the authority to enter which contracts.