After vote, sales tax allocation work begins

LAWRENCEVILLE - A citizens' board Friday praised the passage of Gwinnett's 1-percent sales tax extension, setting a schedule for the new year to begin the process of picking projects for the funds.

"The citizen involvement has been a big part of the success in the past," Transportation Director Brian Allen said of the special purpose local option sales tax, which has funded more than $1 billion in infrastructure improvements over the past two decades. "We've learned through the experience of the last 12 years."

In the five-year plan, which passed Nov. 4, officials have slated $381 million of the $850 million in expected revenues to go toward county park projects. The citizens project selection committee, a group that has been involved in the past three sales tax cycles, has already allocated those funds to project categories, but met this week to organize the task of choosing specific projects, a process expected to take about five months.

The group's next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Jan. 16 at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville.

At that hearing, the group will discuss four project categories - neighborhood speed control, unpaved roads, transportation planning and rehabilitation and resurfacing.

The first three categories comprise less than $10 million of the allotment and are mostly awarded through neighborhood requests, although planning dollars go to revitalization groups as well as county projects, Allen said.

The fourth, resurfacing, has an allocation of $62.1 million, but Allen said the county usually handles its projects through an evaluation process.

At subsequent meetings, which are planned for every two weeks after the Jan. 16 kickoff, the committee is expected to spend an entire session discussing each of the remaining categories - $25 million for school safety, $20 million for road safety and alignment, $62.1 million for bridges, culverts and roadway drainage, $45.1 million for intersections, $112.9 million for major roads and $45.1 million for sidewalks/pedestrian safety.

"We're not able to depend on the federal government to solve our transportation problems. We have to take care of it locally," Allen said.

The committee is expected to wrap up its work in May, forwarded its recommendations to the Board of Commissioners.