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Advocates talk train with Lilburn

In theory, a proposed passenger train that links Athens to Atlanta can be an economic engine to cities along the railway.

Cities like Lilburn, which sit in no-man's land between two commercial corridors, would get an immediate influx of people and commerce.

Commuter rail advocates this week shared their vision of the train with the Lilburn City Council. They were led by E.H. Culpepper, chairman of the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority and longtime supporter of the 72-mile passenger rail line.

Mayor Jack Bolton said the city loves the idea, "but we have a lot of questions to consider."

Lilburn owns 22 acres adjacent to the city park that could house a train station, but the City Council would need to decide how long it can sit on the property. State transportation officials and consultants say the commuter railway could be up and running by 2010.

Rail line supporter

spreads the message

Commuter rail has enjoyed the support of some state economic leaders over the years, but the idea is less well-known among the public, advocates say.

"They generally don't have an opinion on it yet," says Emory Morsberger, a local developer who is revitalizing properties from Atlanta to Lawrenceville.

Culpepper, who has been promoting the idea for nearly 20 years, also spoke to Lawrenceville city leaders this week. He also plans to spread his message to other cities.

Medieval Times to open in summer

Medieval Times, which announced last year it would build its ninth U.S. location at the Discover Mills mall, is on pace to open this summer.

That crater shoppers see beside Jillian's will become a jousting area - centerpiece of the chain's 87,000-square-foot replica of a medieval castle, where patrons eat dinner and experience the competition and chivalry of a medieval tournament.

That includes knights, horses, romance and falconry.

When the idea of Medieval Times was first proposed 23 years ago, many cities were skeptical. Few understood the concept. Kissimmee, Fla., a tourist city near Disney World, was the first to take a chance.

Future of PSC debated

Consumer groups and utility company lobbyists are debating the future of the Georgia Public Service Commission's staff that battles rate hikes.

While commissioners say the so-called adversary staff is not in jeopardy, exactly how it will work and where it will be housed is still under review.

Will Phillips, associate state director for the senior citizens' advocacy group AARP, discouraged even the slightest tweaking.

The adversary staff protects overmatched residential customers "who don't have the time, resources or inclination to intervene," he said.

Doug Sams can be reached via e-mail at doug.sams@gwinnettdailypost.com.