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Outcome mixed for Gwinnett

ATLANTA - A bill to give Snellville and Gwinnett police the power to use cameras to catch speeders died in the General Assembly last week.

So did proposals to give Suwanee and Buford tourism bureaus and allow county police to give citations instead of arresting misdemeanor offenders.

Proposals on annexation and stormwater never even made it to legislators' desks.

In 2006, local legislators didn't accomplish many of their Gwinnett County goals this year, But they took care of the big items - HOPE for Georgia Gwinnett College, tougher gang laws, a new judge, the Ten Commandments. Plus, many used their legislative clout to add money to the state budget for projects across the county.

Despite the death of many local initiatives, legislators gave the county a good score at the end of the session - mostly because some of proposals that died were ones they wanted nailed into a coffin.

Rep. Mike Coan, R-Lawrenceville, said he was glad to see the tourism proposal shelved because of concerns it would harm the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

"We've done what we needed to do. We have to look at the bigger picture for Gwinnett County," he said. "It's been an interesting session. This was intended to be a light session, but it was heavy. Some things that were meant to be easy haven't been."

Neither the county's Senate nor House members held a single delegation meeting this year.

State Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, said the priority for most of Gwinnett's legislators this year was on statewide projects.

After all, large-scale issues of eminent domain, courthouse security and taxes have an effect on the local government.

"You should not measure our success on the number of meetings held. You should measure our success on what we've done for the community," he said.

Rep. John Heard, who proposed changing the Lawrenceville city charter to encompass land at the Gwinnett Progress Center and along the proposed Sugarloaf extension, said he felt like he was successful even though the bill never reached the hopper.

"My whole purpose was getting the mind-set up and bringing businesses and jobs to Lawrenceville," he said. "Overall, our most critical issues made it through."

Heard did say legislators needed to get on the same page with county and city officials on issues such as tourism and stormwater, but discussions over the summer could help with that.

Then, legislators need to find agreement among each other. After all, the speed camera bill has been on Gwinnettian minds for two years, but when an amendment was added to give revenues to a spinal center instead of the jurisdiction's coffers, officials said they'd rather drop it.

"I think we did OK," said County Administrator Jock Connell.

The county's legislative agenda got off to a rocky start when the legislators refused to even consider setting up an authority for the government's new stormwater utility.

But Connell said the tourism failure was a county victory and the government's concerns were also taken into account on courthouse security and other issues.

"I think some future dialogue will take place," Connell said. "There may be some disagreement, but I look at it as different points of view. It's always good to have different points of view and to sit down and talk about it."

Where Gwinnett lawmakers really pulled through was with money.

Earlier in the session, legislators were able to secure $2 million in the midyear adjustment of the 2006 budget for the county's Hamilton Mill library branch.

In the 2007 document passed late Thursday, lawmakers got $1 million for the startup costs for Georgia Gwinnett College and some money to boost grant-in-aid to the health department.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said she was able to secure $4 million for the creation of a child crisis intervention center - the state's second such facility. The money goes to the mental health board for Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton, but Unterman said the facility would likely be built in Gwinnett.

Other local assistance grants included in the budget are:

•$20,000 to renovate concession and restroom facilities at a local park in Sugar Hill

•$50,000 to construct a pedestrian bridge in Suwanee

•$15,000 for downtown revitalization efforts in Lawrenceville

•$30,000 for the Gwinnett Board of Education to construct physical health education classroom and activities facility

•$25,000 for Snellville to construct sidewalks and buy police video cameras and a bucket truck

•$10,000 for a special-needs playground in Gwinnett County

•$10,000 to purchase books for a library under construction in Braselton

•$40,000 to fund Success Academy in Norcross

•$30,000 to Lilburn for computers in patrol cars and security lighting and emergency phones for the city greenway walking trail

•$25,000 to create a human services plan for Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District

•$100,000 for the Gwinnett County Board of Education to construct a physical health education classroom at Grayson High School.

The budget also includes $15,000 for Barrow County's Fort Yargo State Park. The money will go to purchasing environmentally sensitive property nearby.