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Stormwater authority gets House delegation approval

ATLANTA - Gwinnett officials' desire for a stormwater authority and judges requests for a pay increase will be considered in the last few days of the legislative session. But moves to expand the county commission will wait until next year, legislators decided Friday.

The county's House delegation met late Friday to tackle the lingering local issues, and came to a compromise over the pay and stormwater requests.

Since the county commission approved a stormwater utility more than a year ago, officials have tried to convince politicians of the need for an authority.

The seven-member body would not be allowed to set rates but would be able to issue revenue bonds, Water Resources Director Frank Stephens said.

While Rep. Mike Coan, R-Lawrenceville, expressed reservations about the burden on property owners, the delegation approved its own version of the authority. After the House of Representatives votes on the matter, a compromise must be struck with the Senate.

"There are some major projects we've identified that are going to help a lot of people," Water Resources Director Frank Stephens said, adding that 800 projects are on a backlog because of lack of funding. "If we have the ability to generate revenue bonds, we can fast-track them."

Rep. Hugh Floyd, D-Norcross, presented two plans to expand the county commission - one would redraw lines to form six districts instead of four and another would create two superdistricts.

Some legislators held reservations about the superdistrict plan, but Rep. Brooks Coleman, the chairman of the House education committee, said officials should consider an expansion to the school board as well.

The delegation did not take a vote on the matter, and Floyd said he would continue his efforts through the next legislative cycle.

But the group did approve a $7,500 raise for local judges.

As the chairman of the delegation, Rep. Bobby Reese, R-Sugar Hill, held the Senate proposal until he got word from county commissioners on how much they were willing to pay, since the supplement would come out of county coffers.

Chairman Charles Bannister said he and three district commissioners would agree to the $7,500, which is $1,500 less than Senate proposal. The increase would cost the county nearly $300,000, Bannister said.

But a proposal to increase the pay of Chief Magistrate Warren Davis to 90 percent of the Superior Court judges' pay was delayed until next year.

Legislators said they would sign the stormwater and compensation bills Monday. The legislative session is scheduled to end Friday.