Area may get large tag office
Center would include other government services

LAWRENCEVILLE - Spurred by the need for more space at the Norcross tag office, officials are considering the creation of a service center for Southwest Gwinnett that could also help revitalize the community.

Officials are completing work on a $150,000 study about where and what to include in a center, which could be built to look like a town green area, Support Services Director Steve North said.

The option would create a campus for government services such as tag renewals around a plaza for people to gather, he said. Another possibility is to convert a vacant building. North said commissioners would decide on the best plan of action after a report is submitted in July.

"We're looking at the best way to give people a one-stop shop," said Commissioner Bert Nasuti, who represents much of the area. "The intent is to provide the citizens the most bang for the buck."

The center is under consideration because of crowding at the Norcross Human Services Center, a 10-year-old facility on Georgia Belle Court.

There, people often have trouble finding parking for services such as HeadStart and a health clinic because of crowding at the tag office, said Anthony Buffum, the director of motor vehicles for the Tax Commissioner's Office.

Buffum said the Norcross location is the busiest of the county's five tag offices, helping 205,000 of the 668,000 tag customers last year.

"Because of the volume of our customers and the vehicular traffic, we caused a lot of problems for other services," Buffum said. "Everyone is in agreement that something needs to be done with that location. It's just not working. It doesn't serve the customers like it should anymore."

Buffum said he is hoping the county will build a free-standing tag office or include it on a service campus instead of creating a single building with shared service uses. He hopes to expand from the 4,900-square-foot space with 15 work stations to an 8,000-square-foot space with 20 work stations and a drive-through facility.

North said no decision had been made on what other types of county services would be available at a new center, and no decisions have been made about how it would be funded.

"I think it could really help. ... It would be a place where people could go and take care of their business," said Chuck Warbington, the director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District.

CID officials were included as a stakeholder in the study, Warbington said, as the organization is intent on improving the community.

"It could bring life to a dark shopping center," Warbington said, noting that the center could drive customers to retail areas but could have the same negatives, considering the parking issues and such, as the Norcross Human Services Center. "We've got to be careful that we don't impact existing businesses."

Nasuti said he is "enamored" with the idea of creating a town plaza atmosphere but said it may not be the best option.

"Money is going to be a factor and location is going to be a factor," he said. "The intent is to make it more accessible and deliver better services."