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County group hires lawyer in service dispute

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett Municipal Association has retained a law firm in its court battle with Gwinnett County over service delivery.

The county filed a motion in court this week, after missing a deadline to outline the delivery of services required by state law. The failure to reach an agreement could have led to the loss of state grants and permits, but a judge has ordered the sanctions be held in abeyance.

"While the cities have no doubt that an agreement is required, we also believe the process must follow state law," said Suwanee Mayor Dave Williams, who is president of the association.

City councils will begin meeting today to retain the same firm, Smith, Welch and Brittain, to protect each city's interest, Williams said.

"We would have served our citizens better by negotiating under an extension of the current agreement," he said in a statement. "Instead, the county waited for the agreement to expire so they could seek a judicial remedy. The path the county has chosen will be longer and costlier, which is regrettable."

City and county officials have said they disagree on a possible county property tax break for taxpayers who live in a city that provides the same service as the county, such as police.

Williams said the next step is for a judge from outside of Gwinnett to be appointed to the case before mediation begins.

"We hope to amicably resolve the outstanding issues between the cities and county," Williams said. "We can then enter into (a service delivery strategy) that fairly apportions quality services at the lowest cost to Gwinnett taxpayers. Our citizens and businesses deserve nothing less."