Service dispute heads to mediation

DULUTH - City and county leaders will meet with a court-appointed mediator today as part of a second try to find a solution to the service delivery dispute that has wound up in court.

Suwanee Mayor Dave Williams, a leader in the negotiations said the issues, which revolve around services such as police and transportation and how residents are taxed, were not resolved Wednesday.

Leaders from Gwinnett's 15 cities are seeking a lower county millage rate for their residents, who pay city taxes for similar services.

"It's tough to say where we are," Williams said Wednesday. "We are still working intensely on this. We're hoping for a breakthrough."

The state-mandated service delivery strategy expired at the end of February, when county officials sued the cities to force mediation on the issues. Dozens of elected officials from the 16 governments met with a mediator last month, as the negotiations began.

After three days with the mediator, officials remained in touch but did not reach an agreement before Wednesday, which was reserved for another meeting with the court-appointed intermediary.

This phase of negotiations, taking place at the Duluth City Hall, will continue through Friday. Williams said he did not know what would happen if an agreement is not reached in that time.

"The cities are prepared to do what it takes," he said. "It's important for all the citizens of the county."