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Residents turn out to talk to commissioners

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LAWRENCEVILLE — A vote on the county airport, fees at parks and junking a controversial trash pick-up system were posed to commissioners Thursday, during the first of a series of listening sessions.

About two dozen residents turned out to a Loganville fire station, but only a handful held the commissioners’ feet to the fire, in the town hall meeting they had billed as an attempt to return public trust after a difficult 2010.

“We really want you to take things seriously,” said Ray Rodden, proposing a quick way to restore integrity by taking county vehicles away from elected officials who admit drinking alcohol and getting behind the wheel. The idea stems from last year’s arrest of then-Chairman Charles Bannister, whose DUI was thrown out but who admitted to having one or two beers before getting behind the wheel.

Commissioners were interested in getting opinions on the airport — where leaders have proposed privatization and possibly the opening of commercial flights — through the upcoming March special election for chairman.

“I want to collect all the facts,” Commissioner Lynette Howard said. “I want the RFPs (requests for proposals) to go out tomorrow. I want them to be complete. I want to know everything I can to make the best decision.”

The county’s hot button issues were once again argued, especially the trash plan that has had residents up in arms. But few promises were made on that.

“You are elected to represent the people … (But) I don’t think you are serious about taking people’s suggestions,” Bob Mesteller said. “You are $18 million in the red and you can get rid of that and be $18 million in the black (without the trash service).”

Commissioners, though, pointed out that the trash fund is self-sustaining and would not affect the general fund deficit.

“That’s the ultimate responsibility of a commissioner,” District 4’s John Heard said, defending the board for attempting to address concerns. “When you don’t listen to what you are told, you get voted out. We are going to listen, and we are here for that purpose.”

Tom Wilson lives next door to Commissioner Mike Beaudreau and could talk to him over the fence any day. But instead he came out Thursday to bring up some topics.

Beaudreau, who represents District 3, where the fire station is located, said he was glad to hear from people on a variety of issues, from the budget deficit to a speed hump issue in one neighborhood.

Officials will continue holding the sessions in each district, with the next one scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 31 at George Pierce Park community center in Suwanee. Another will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at Lucky Shoals Park community room in Lilburn, with the final set for 7 p.m. March 7 at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in Lawrenceville.