DOT: Gwinnett projects can use stimulus funding

LAWRENCEVILLE - An attorney has concluded Gwinnett road and bridge projects can benefit from stimulus funding.

The conclusion, which came a day after the State Transportation Board approved $80 million in projects for the county, was reached after studying the state's service delivery strategy law.

The county and its 15 cities faced sanctions for failing to reach an agreement on the strategy by a Feb. 28 deadline. Those sanctions include the loss of state grants and permits.

But the DOT's lawyer Chris Tomlinson determined the stimulus funds don't apply, contradicting an earlier opinion from an assistant commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.

"The funds are federal dollars and as such are not subject to this statute," a DOT spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail.

Gwinnett officials filed a lawsuit seeking mediation over the strategy, but a local judge rescinded his order of abeyance of the sanctions, since state law requires a judge from outside of the area oversee the case.

"I'm glad to hear that," Deputy County Administrator Mike Comer said of the DOT's ruling, which frees up funds for a widening of the Ga. Highway 324 bridge, improvements to U.S. Highway 29 in Lilburn and an extension to McGinnis Ferry Road in Suwanee.

"That's good news."