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Lawrenceville mayor delivers first State of the City address

LAWRENCEVILLE --The state of the city of Lawrenceville is good, according to Mayor Rex Millsaps, and it remains in a strong financial position.

In his first State of the City address since becoming mayor in late 2006, Millsaps reported at Monday's Lawrenceville City Council meeting that the city's tax millage rate is among the lowest in Gwinnett County, and the city's electric and natural gas rates are among the lowest in the area.

The city's millage rate is remaining at 2.16 mills this year. "With the decrease in property values, this millage equates to a $178,000 reduction in taxes, almost 8 percent, for our citizens," Millsaps said. The city's fiscal year 2011 budget, slated to be adopted by the council later this month, has been reduced to accommodate this revenue shortage, he said.

Due to Lawrenceville's purchasing equity in existing power plants and increasing its guaranteed share of the expansion of Plant Vogel to 15 megawatts, Millsaps said the city will be able to maintain its low electrical rates for generations to come.

Through the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, Lawrenceville has ownership in natural gas wells and pipelines and, with long-term purchase contracts, will continue to offer low rates, he said.

The city also is in the process of reopening wells to reduce the cost of water and reduce dependency on Lake Lanier water that it purchases from the county.

"We are already operating three wells. A fourth will be online in two months, and five more in eleven months when our new water treatment plant (on Winer Industrial Way) is opened," Millsaps said. The existing plant at Rhodes Jordan Park will be modernized, and additional wells will be connected to it, he said. "The cost savings will be passed on to our citizens."

"Our sanitation service is second to none," the mayor continued. "For a fee of $7 a month ($3.50 for senior citizens), we will pick up almost anything you put on the street." He urged residents to recycle more since it reduces landfill costs and benefits the environment.

The Lawrenceville Police Department relocated to a new building that will accommodate it for years to come, Millsaps said. "Overall crime is down in the city, and Lawrenceville remains a safe place to live, work, raise a family, and retire," he added.

"The Quality of Life Unit is working very hard," Millsaps said, "however the large number of foreclosed properties in the city continues to make its job very difficult. Determining ownership of these properties is a challenge."

Millsaps said that he plans to ask the council for approval to establish a $1 million interest-free revolving loan account for qualified builders to purchase and improve foreclosed homes in the city for sale to owner-occupied buyers. When the homes are sold, the $1 million would return to the city, he said.

"We are in year two of our five-year campaign to resurface every street in the city," the mayor also reported. The city allocated $1 million per year to this project and doubled the amount to $2 million this year to take advantage of low paving costs, he said.

"The biggest threat to our quality of life is the proposed expansion of the Gwinnett County Airport known as Briscoe Field," Millsaps said.

The fact that the county is considering expanding the airport is already affecting home sales in Lawrenceville, he said. "Nobody wants large airplanes flying over their house at 800 to 1,000 feet. I hope our citizens will join the city council in opposing this effort."