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Cities, county negotiating service sharing

LAWRENCEVILLE - County and city leaders have not reached an agreement on how services will be shared for the next 10 years, officials said.

Last week, Gwinnett commissioners agreed to extend the service delivery strategy in place for the past decade while the negotiations continue. Two city councils have also agreed to the extension, with others expected to vote on the matter in the coming weeks.

The conclusion, Assistant County Administrator Lisa Johnsa said, could be setting services districts where people who live in cities pay different county millage rates.

Along with creating a new countywide comprehensive plan, officials have been negotiating the service delivery strategy for two years.

It determines which government would provide services. For example, the cities of Lawrenceville, Norcross, Duluth, Lilburn, Snellville and Suwanee have their own police force, but the county police department provides protection in other cities.

The service has recently become an issue, as the cities of Sugar Hill and Grayson have considered hiring security firms to supplement the county service.

"We've got to look at what services, who is going to do it, in those areas," Johnsa said. "We may end up with different tax districts, which is something different for Gwinnett County. What those rates will be is dependent on what the cities decide to do."

Randy Meacham, who has worked on the negotiations as managing director of the Gwinnett Municipal Association, which includes representatives from all 15 cities located in Gwinnett, said officials don't have a major sticking point, but they did not believe they could meet the Feb. 28 deadline.

"Right now, I'm optimistic," he said, adding that the county's service study has caused officials to change the way the process is approached. "You've got a mix. You've got some (cities) that provide police services, some that don't. You've got some that use the county to mail out tax bills and some that don't. It's not a cookie cutter approach."