Amid growing residents’ protest, Paulding Co airport moves ahead - CBS46 News

Amid growing residents’ protest, Paulding County airport expansion moves forward

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In the wake of protests from two citizen groups, Paulding County leaders remain intent on completing the commercial expansion of their airport by the spring. That expansion would mark the first time a metro Atlanta airport outside of Hartsfield-Jackson will offer commercial airline service.

"We certainly do not want a Hartsfield airport here, but that's the best way to scare everyone in town is to tell them that's going to happen," said county Chairman David Austin. He remains convinced that Delta Airlines is behind much of the effort to stop the expansion of the airport.

Since the project became known to the public in October, three lawsuits have been filed by Paulding County residents against the Airport Authority and the Federal Aviation administration. Those lawsuits allege an improper issuance of bonds, a failure to conduct environmental impact studies around the airport and an improper transfer of county funds between the Industrial Building Authority and Airport Authority.

Austin believes Delta is paying the legal bills of the residents who've filed those lawsuits.

"It's no secret, they couldn't be doing this without Delta money," he said.

A spokesman for the airline declined comment on the story, and two of the residents involved in the suits, Susan Wilkins and Mary Board, had no comment when asked if their legal bills were being paid for by Delta.

"I think it's irrelevant to my fight," said Board, who says she's battling the airport expansion because she fears heavy air traffic and a decreased quality of life.

"I believe strongly that that airport should not be commercialized," she said. "I don't think we need a commercialized airport to bring jobs into this county."

The lawsuit against the FAA was settled out of court, with the federal agency agreeing to pay for an environmental study around the airport property.

Of the two law suits remaining, one has yet to be heard. A judge ruled in favor of the airport in the other, where it was alleged that the Airport Authority did not properly issue the bonds to help pay for the project. That case is now up for an appeal at the state Supreme Court.

Airport Director Blake Swafford said he expects the environmental study to be completed with no problems and the airport to open in time for the summer vacation travel season. Swafford says there will likely be only a handful of flights each week in the early going, ultimately topping out at four flights per day within a few years.

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