Public members chosen for budget study

LAWRENCEVILLE - When organizers read a list of community groups invited to have a representative on the county's Engage Gwinnett process, Paula Krone saw a huge segment of the population left unrepresented: people with disabilities.

But after a public engagement Wednesday, though, Krone, whose son has physical and mental disabilities, was chosen as one of 10 residents to participate in the six-month-long study of county services and finances.

"When you are thinking about somebody with a disability, you are also helping parents with children in a stroller. You are helping seniors," Krone said as she talked about her interest in the community to other area residents.

The 10 citizen members, along with 12 alternates, were chosen by the residents themselves during the first public hearing for the Engage Gwinnett program.

"This is a wonderful community to live in, and I just want the county to do things in the interests of citizens and not in the interests of politicians and bureaucrats," said Dick Goodman, a Suwanee man chosen for the group.

The committee will contain another 32 representatives from stakeholder groups, although names have not been released, and organizers Bill McCargo and Mike Levengood promised to keep the public involved as much as possible.

"What got most of us here are budget issues," said Kip Stokes of Auburn. "We want people to remember the small voices."

In addition to the member selection, nearly 150 people provided feedback and suggestions on how to conduct the study, which Chairman Charles Bannister called for after a public outcry over a proposed tax increase, which was defeated, then a public outcry over cuts in services.

"I don't want my taxes to go up ... but I'm very concerned about the police presence in the county," said Cindy Gaskins, who was chosen as an alternate.

"This is a very complex situation we are dealing with," McCargo said. When we have financial issues, we have to make tough choices. ... It's not easy to take a look at a government the size of ours. ... We need to be able to determine what are our needs as a community and what are our wants."

The committee will begin meeting Oct. 8 and will meet every other week through March. Two more public meetings are planned - one for the mid-point of the study and one for near the end.

Each of the sessions will be televised on the county government cable channel, and residents can also receive information at www.engagegwinnett.com.

SideBar: Engage Gwinnett

The following people were chosen as citizen representatives to the 42-member Engage Gwinnett committee.

· Dick Goodman, Suwanee

· Laurie McClain, Suwanee

· Dan King, Duluth

· Keith Shewbert, Norcross

· Kip Stokes, Auburn

· Jack Mason, Lawrenceville

· Keith Roche, Lawrenceville

· Millicent Crawford, Duluth

· Glen Williams, Snellville

· Paula Krone, Norcross


· Taylor Anderson, Sugar Hill

· Paul Bursino, Suwanee

· Ken Klaudt, Norcross

· Elise Whitworth, Duluth

· Jimmy Orr, Bethlehem

· Cindy Gaskins, Buford

· Larry Still, Lawrenceville

· Ellen Gerstein, Snellville

· Beni Dakar, Duluth

· Charles Swain, Lilburn

· Althea Lawton-Thompson, Lilburn