BUFORD -- Commissioners spent Tuesday morning and much of the afternoon talking about Gwinnett County's future.
Among topics discussed during the strategic planning session retreat at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center was a look at economic conditions and discussions of infrastructure, public safety and planning and development initiatives.
From the public safety side, Fire Chief Bill Myers talked about some of the future's possible challenges as 9-1-1 call volumes continue to climb throughout the county. He said the number of emergency calls has been on a steady incline over the past couple of years.
Myers said that in terms of the county's emergency response coverage, the department "has reached a plateau."
"We have placed enough fire stations in the county to ensure that 98 percent of Gwinnett County is within five miles of fire station protection" Myers said.
Gwinnett County Chief of Police Charles Walters said the department continues to protect residents with a ratio of about one policeman represented per 1,000 people in the county.
The aim, he said, is to provide even more than that in the future. "Ideally, we would have two policemen per 1,000," Walters said.
That possibility, like many others discussed during Tuesday's strategic planning session, was limited by the county's financial situation.
Financial Services Director Maria Woods briefed the board of commissioners on the county's revenues and expenditures, while Chief Appraiser Steve Pruitt delivered information about the tax digest.
Projections continue to show that the county will lose about 8.5 percent of its tax digest in 2013.
"We've lost 10 years of digest growth in the last downturn," Pruitt said. "That's a lot of money."
Pruitt said many of the economic forecasts he's read seem "optimistic"
"If foreclosures continue for the next couple of years, we will not see the bottom for some time," Pruitt said.
Pruitt said the county should plan accordingly.
From the planning and development side, director Bryan Lackey discussed initiatives for new mixed use zoning districts to be implemented in the future to lure business. The zoning designations would allow a mixture of residential, office and commercial uses.
Lackey also talked about further use of overlay zoning districts that "will help attract businesses to the 316 corridor."
In addition, Lackey brought commissioners up to speed on the progress of the Gwinnett Housing Task Force, which was convened in February "to address those housing problems specific to Gwinnett."
The planning session was a mini-version of the retreat commissioners took in years past for a three-day look at the county's direction.
It was the first strategic planning session held since Chairwoman Charlotte Nash joined the board last year.
Nash thanked the commissioners and county staff for attending.
"It's been good to step back and look at things from an overall perspective," Nash said. "It gives us a chance to ask ourselves how we go forward in updating our approaches and our information for the future of Gwinnett County."