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SPLOST funding for seniors ‘monumental’

NORCROSS —After breaking a bit of a sweat during an exercise class Thursday morning, participants at the Norcross senior center knew exactly what they needed, as they shifted the chairs of the room for a public meeting meeting in the same spot where lunch would soon be served: more space.

But with about $5 million expected to come from a proposed renewal of the county Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, the seniors didn’t agree with how to get that.

“We’d kind of like to see a new building, maybe be a little larger because, as, you can see, we are a little crowded, possibly in a park-like setting,” said John Tuite, who added that a nearby rock quarry often causes blasts so intense that the art falls from the walls.

Others, though, said the Georgia Belle Court building is satisfactory, but an expansion and maybe a walking trail would really be a benefit.

The public hearing, the second in a series designed to help mold a project list for the small portion of the sales tax earmarked for senior services, often strayed to the program options for seniors, when the sales tax can only be spent on capital projects. But one participant told officials they should aim for using the capital dollars in a way that would help cut down on waiting lists.

“We made Gwinnett County a mecca for senior citizens,” William Dinkins said, citing the low crime and access to quality health care. “I think we ought to invest more.”

With a 130 percent increase in the senior population since 2000, this is the first time that county officials have earmarked money specifically for senior facilities and equipment, although the majority of the funds would still be devoted to transportation projects, public safety, parks and libraries.

“It’s very monumental,” Community Services Director said. “I think that’s an acknowledgement from public officials that the population is getting older.”

The debate on how to spend the senior portion of the funding will continue. Public meetings are scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Centerville Community Center in Grayson and at 10 a.m. Monday at the Lawrenceville senior center.