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Residents sound off on issues
Budget cuts and trash hot topics at town hall

LAWRENCEVILLE - For months - as a church faced the development of a waste transfer station next door, as a county budget crisis unfolded and a trash hauling plan went to court - Sabrina Smith and her neighbors and friends began asking questions.

The answers, she said, never seemed to come.

But she and about 250 others began to get some feedback Thursday during a town hall meeting she organized with residents.

"I just want to know answers to very simple questions," the Lawrenceville woman said at the meeting's opening.

With a panel of residents and volunteers and a crowd that included four mayors, the sheriff and a commissioner, residents sounded off on issues from the controversial closing of a library to the possibility of losing access to water from Lake Lanier.

"It's important that Gwinnett continues to move forward," developer George Thorndyke, a panelist, said. "We are stalled and we have no direction to move ahead."

While the county recently tapped leaders to create a citizens study panel to investigate the budget, organizer Debbie Dooley said people can't wait six months for answers.

People suggested the end of duplication of services with the school board, staggering library hours to keep more open and working on solutions other than new roads to help with traffic.

"I think we have an opportunity to improve quality of life in Gwinnett County and make sure the services we provide are the ones the citizens want," said Mike Levengood, one of the leaders of the Engage Gwinnett program. The first meeting for that group will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 9.

Elsie Post, of Suwanee, said she planned to attend more meetings.

"There were actual answers," she said, referring to Commissioner Mike Beaudreau's responses to many of the concerns voiced Thursday. "It was refreshing to ascertain that we are on the same page."

James Wall, a Dacula man angered over the decision to close his library branch, was more skeptical, saying he had little hope for a change.

"It didn't hurt," though, to attend, he said.