Berkeley Lake's contract with police set to expire

BERKELEY LAKE - Mayor Lois Salter and city council members are faced with an important decision to be made by the end of this month, when the city's contract with the Gwinnett County police department expires.

Currently, the city of Berkeley Lake pays an hourly rate for Gwinnett County police officers to patrol and serve the city.

Should the city enter into a new contract with the county, the terms of the contract will change. Berkeley Lake will pay a higher hourly rate for officers, and the Gwinnett precinct commander will select the officers sent to serve the city.

Under the current arrangement, the same officers patrolled the Berkeley Lake streets, thereby ensuring their familiarity with the city's public safety needs.

Under the new contract, the Gwinnett precinct commander could also pull an officer out of the city of Berkeley Lake at his discretion to handle a county matter, but Berkeley Lake would still pay the hourly rate for that officer in his absence.

There is also an insurance matter that City Attorney Dick Carothers plans to address before advising Salter to go ahead with a new contract.

With all of these proposed changes "in the best interest of the county," according to Salter, the mayor is researching other options for her city's public safety needs.

One option that Salter favors is hiring a police officer and buying a police car. Another option the mayor is considering is hiring security guards, which can be done for less money that paying a police officer.

A third option is getting assistance from the Duluth Police Department.

According to Salter, Duluth Police Chief Randy Belcher has said his department could assist with hiring and training an officer or officers, although Belcher stressed the fact that he was not speaking for the Duluth City Council.

Belcher indicated to Salter that Berkeley Lake could pay for the program with the increase in traffic fines that would inevitably come with the city having its own police presence.

"We need to be open to all scenarios," said Councilwoman Debbie Guthrie, "even if the solution is a combination of several of these options."

Council members gave Salter the go-ahead to sign a new contract with Gwinnett County once Carothers has addressed the insurance matter.

Plans for new city hall building progressing

Berkeley Lake residents will get a chance to see drawings of the new City Hall building from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on March 15 in the Berkeley Lake Chapel.

On that date, Urban Collage and architectural firm Wakefield Beasley will present both interior and exterior drawings to residents.

Representatives from the two companies will be available to hear residents' input and answer questions about the new facility.