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Gwinnett officials propose local-state partnership on juvenile detention facility

Gwinnett legislators, including Rep. Pedro Marin, far right, listen to presentations by county officials during an annual preview to the legislative session Tuesday.

Gwinnett legislators, including Rep. Pedro Marin, far right, listen to presentations by county officials during an annual preview to the legislative session Tuesday.

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Gwinnett Chairwoman Charlotte Nash talks Tuesday to legislators during an annual meeting to discuss the upcoming legislative session.

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State Reps. Dewey McClain, Buzz Brockway, Karen Bennett and Chuck Efstration (from left to right) listen to presentations from county officials about the upcoming legislative session Tuesday. McClain and Efstration will be new to the General Assembly when the session begins in January.

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State Reps. Joyce Chandler, Brooks Coleman and Valerie Clark discuss issues during an annual meeting with county officials prior to the General Assembly’s opening in January.

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Sen. Renee Unterman (left) and other legislators listen to presentations Tuesday, as local officials discuss issues coming up during the legislative session in January.

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Rep. Tom Kirby (left) and other legislators listen to presentations Tuesday, as local officials discuss issues coming up during the legislative session in January.

LAWRENCEVILLE — In the wake of an announcement that Gwinnett’s local juvenile detention facility is closing, local officials are proposing a partnership with the state to build a new location.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said she will meet with the governor Thursday to ask for $10 million to build a replacement for the more than 30-year-old facility, which the Department of Juvenile Justice has slated for closure in June.

With Gwinnett’s government agreeing to provide a Lawrenceville-area location, Unterman told the county’s legislative delegation Tuesday that they should push for the state’s second largest county to maintain a juvenile justice facility to avoid between $300,000 and $500,000 in costs expected to transport kids to facilities in Conyers and Gainesville.

During an annual meeting to tell legislators about local priorities before the upcoming General Assembly session in January, leaders said the closure of the Gwinnett facility would not only impact parents and kids but the county’s coffers as well as local cities.

Unterman recently visited the location and agreed that rehabbing the old, run-down structure on Hi-Hope Road is not a possible solution, but she said the county’s size and demographics should warrant its own facility.

“It seems backwards to not have a facility here when there is such a demand,” Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said.

“This is a huge, huge hit on our county, and we cannot tolerate it,” Unterman said.

During the legislative meeting, county officials also asked legislators to continue to block a controversial cell tower bill that could take away the county’s ability to stop a tower location in a residential area. A request was also made to add a $10 technology fee on to certain tickets to pay for the county’s e-citation program.

Health officials asked the legislators to stop a possible 30 percent hit to funding, saying the county’s foreign-born population leaves residents susceptible to tuberculosis.

While the health department has treated about 45 active cases this year, Director Lloyd Hofer said statistics show as many as 64,000 residents could be infected with the communicable disease.

“We are understaffed; we are underfunded,” said Board of Health Chairwoman Louise Radloff. “It’s absolutely imperative that we get a handle on this, or it will become something that gets national attention.”