Rick Badie's Gwinnett: Time for the county to take flight?

Life may not necessarily be like a box of chocolates, but every now and again you do stumble upon the unexpected.

And that’s where I found myself Wednesday while driving around a subdivision less than a mile from Gwinnett County’s Briscoe Field near Lawrenceville.

I had hoped to talk to residents about a proposal by Propeller Investments, a private equity firm, to acquire the county-owned airport, expand the runway, and someday begin up to 20 daily commercial flights to cities such as New York.

Naturally, the firm’s plans and the idea of privatization are in their infancy. The county must agree to sell the property, host public hearings, and diligently examine the noise, traffic and environment that might be generated by a 10-gate airport. The federal government has a say in privatization, too, so no commercial planes will be taking off anytime soon. Rather, think years.

Brett Smith, Propeller’s managing director, has said an upgraded airport would offer hassle-free travel to major cities. Moreover, it would eliminate the need for me and you to travel to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Imagine being able to catch a major flight on a major airline in a major city and not even have to leave the county. Sweet.

But like most sugary treats, one must ponder the potentially bitter downsides. The first thing that popped to mind were the people who would live in neighborhoods in the vicinity of Briscoe Field, who will have to put up with commercial airline flights, traffic and noise no matter how miniscule.

In Providence Plantation, Handan Mustedanogic was on his front porch slicing up the biggest box of beef butts I’ve ever seen. His wife, Fatima Beganovic, shuffled in and out of the house with garlic, salt and pepper. (More on that later.)

It didn’t take long to realize the Bosnian couple spoke no English. Thank goodness their daughter, Arifa Beganovic, who escaped the war-torn republic with her family when she was 15, was home. She translated.

The family did not know there’d been talk about an upgraded airport. And even though they live directly behind Briscoe, noise has never been an issue.

Of course, all that could change with commercial flights. Ben DeCosta, the general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson, told AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi that noise would be an issue if this proposal gets legs. Surely it can’t be insurmountable.

When and if this idea ever gets off the ground, it is hoped people who live around the complex will be afforded the opportunity to be heard; to air their concerns to the proper authorities; to be treated neighborly and with as much transparency as possible.

Make this, as best as possible, a win-win situation for all. For nearby residents. For a cash-strapped county whose revenue stream has dwindled to a drip. For me and you — Gwinnett residents and potential passengers.

Now back to that beef. Mustedanogic put several slices in a rubber trash can. His wife slathered them with chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Every time he added meat, she added spices. Later, water would be added.

The meat will stay outside, covered, for several days. Then, they’ll smoke the meat and share it with friends.

Call me when it’s time.

Rick Badie, an Opinion columnist, is based in Gwinnett. Reach him at rbadie@ajc.com or 770-263-3875.

Where's the Badie Tour? Rick Badie's tour around Gwinnett will resume after the holidays.