LAWRENCEVILLE -- James Collins doesn't understand why property taxes aren't enough.
Why should he pay a yearly fee to enjoy the use of the Bethesda Senior Center, where he has played pool and hung out with friends for more than 20 years?
"If (commissioners) came up with a balanced budget, then why did they need more money from seniors?" Collins said.
A proposal for fees has angered and confused many seniors, who showed up in droves for a meeting earlier this week.
But Parks and Recreation Director Tina Fleming said county officials are reconsidering the user club fee approved along with Gwinnett's 2012 budget.
"This isn't just a senior fee. It's for a robotic club, a book club," Fleming said, pointing out that seniors were not targeted. Instead, the fee was proposed for clubs not a normal part of the parks department programing but which use the facilities. "It's not just a normal user, not a person who is just coming in and shooting pool."
After the $25 per person fee drew complaints, the system decided to step back and create a task force to explore the user fee.
"It's more about, we can't offer any additional program in that room because it's being utilized," she said.
For much of Gwinnett's community center programming, people pay fees -- the price of a Spanish class or other community school program, a $2 open-gym fee to play basketball or take a hydroaerobics class.
Others pay to rent the facility. but clubs have been getting access to a room on a regular basis for free.
Fleming said the fee would not have applied to senior clubs that are part of the programming at local centers, but independent bridge clubs and mah jong clubs, which have a lot of senior members, would have been impacted.
"It would make it more consistent," with other fees, she said. "That has to do with our need to add revenue."
The task force, which has 23 members from user groups throughout the county, was set to explore a fair way of implementing a revenue stream, since some clubs meet only a few times a year while others meet several times a week.
A meeting earlier this week was filled with about 75 people, mostly seniors, concerned about the idea, Collins said.
Fleming said their input could be received by this summer, and in the meantime officials are expecting to set aside the $7,000 that was expected in revenue this year.
"The maintenance, electricity and utility and the staff, that should come out of the budget," Collins said of using tax money instead of user fees. "We pay our property taxes."