Two suspects in unrelated murders who were being held at the Gwinnett County Jail died last week.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is trying to figure out how that happened — and one part of the investigation is focusing on identifying a substance that was found in the inmates’ cell.
These are the top stories from the past week.
GBI investigating deaths of two murder suspects at Gwinnett jail
Two suspects in unrelated murders who were being held at the Gwinnett County Jail died on Monday. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is trying to figure out how that happened — and one part of the investigation is focusing on identifying a substance that was found in the inmates’ cell.
The Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office called in the GBI to investigate the deaths of Stone Mountain resident Ian Longshore, 36, and Decatur resident Corey Bryant, 22, after the pair were discovered unresponsive on Monday. Longshore died at the jail while Bryant died after he was taken to a nearby hospital.
“We are deeply concerned over the unexpected deaths of these two individuals,” Sheriff Keybo Taylor said. “We are fully cooperating with the GBI’s investigation.”
Deputies found Longshore and Bryant unconscious in their cell while responding to a medical emergency. The Sheriff’s Office said jail staff performed life-saving measures on the pair while they waited for emergency medical service officials to arrive.
- By Curt Yeomans email@example.com
GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said a white powdery substance was found in Longshore and Bryant’s cell. The substance has not been identified.
“The substance has been sent to the GBI crime lab for testing, and the testing is in progress,” Miles said.
While the GBI awaits the results of the tests on the substance, it is continuing its investigation into what happened in the cell. Miles said the agency will send its results to District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson for review once the investigation is completed.
Jail records show Longshore was booked into the jail on March 12 on felony murder and armed robbery charges. Bryant was also in the jail on murder and armed robbery charges and had been there since he was booked in March 2017.
Longshore’s charges were in connection to the October 2019 death of Sukkee Hong in Buford. He was one of three suspects arrested in connection with Hong’s death.
Bryant was facing charges related to the March 2017 death of Jacquorrius Madison on Grove Lake Street in unincorporated Loganville. He was one of three individuals arrested in connection with Madison’s death.
Gwinnettians remember victims of 9/11 terrorist attacks on 20th anniversary
For Gwinnett County Commissioner Jasper Watkins, the attack at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, was not something he saw unfold live on TV.
Watkins was heading into the Pentagon when one of the highjacked planes crashed into it. He was a member of the medical branch of the personnel command that was heading to the Pentagon for a daily morning briefing.
“Like we did every morning at that time, we were on the yellow line waiting to go into the Pentagon and from the left, it’s vivid, but from the left, before we were going down, one of the members of the party said, ‘Hey, this is not the flight path, you know, this plane is not in the flight path,’” Watkins said.
“And, then we went down and the train abruptly stopped kind of mid-way and then scooted up, and that’s when we knew that the Pentagon was hit.”
Watkins shared his recollections during Gwinnett county’s annual 9/11 memorial at the Fallen Heroes Memorial, which is located at the Gwinnett Justice Administration Center in Lawrenceville, on Saturday. It was one of several events that took place around the county to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Remembrance events were also held at the Red Clay Music Foundry in Duluth, Suwanee Town Center Park, Betty Mauldin Park in Norcross and Lilburn City Park.
Each event offered a unique way to mark the anniversary.
Lilburn officials unveiled a temporary art exhibit created by Gwinnett county Public Schools bus driver Daniele Roberts.
Roberts and her family created 2,977 paper cranes — one for every person killed on the highjacked planes, in the Twin Towers in New York City and at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Georgia and forced schools into digital learning in March 2020, Roberts decided to begin working on an idea she’d had about a way to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“It’s a small memorial (but) it’s a personal memorial, but each person has been memorialized in one way or another,” Roberts said.
With some time on her hands since students were learning from home, Roberts began folding pieces of blue paper, origami style, into small paper cranes.
It took her awhile since she could only work on the project when she had time available, and she had another job as well, but eventually, she and her family made 2,977 paper cranes — one for every person who died as a result of the 9/11 attacks.
“It kind of came to me as an idea to put together something that I could personalize and hold onto and meditate upon each and every one of them,” Roberts said. “And, I thought, ‘What would I do with it once I created all of these origami cranes, which are really very therapeutic.
“I put it all together and the town of Lilburn was very open to the idea to string from this tree.”
The paper cranes were hung from an oak tree at Lilburn City Park and Mayor Tim Dunn said they will remain there until at least Monday. Each crane has the name of a victim of the terrorist attacks written on the underside of one of the paper bird’s wings.
“I hardly know what to call it, it’s so full of emotion,” Dunn said during a brief ceremony.
The events held on Saturday offered Gwinnettians a chance to recall memories of where they were two decades ago when the attacks happened.
Watkins said he and the other command members thought they were prepared for anything, but 9/11 proved to be something they had not anticipated.
It was attack on the heart of the U.S. military, on U.S. soil. As part of the medical command, he had to focus on the 106 people who were wounded and needed medical treatment at the scene of the Pentagon attack.
“That number will always stick in my mind because those are the people I was responsible for in personnel command,” Watkins said. “What I had to do was make sure that we found everybody who was taken away, and you ask, ‘Well why was that important?’
“You’ve got to understand, clandestine operations happen all the time and there were reports of EMS services that had the word ‘Emergency’ spelled wrong and some reports that some of the emergency vehicles had the word ‘Emergency’ right side up as opposed to backwards. So, the thought was all of us that had security clearance, if you were taken and put under, you could give out vital information.”
Meanwhile, Lawrenceville resident Marlene Taylor Crawford, who is a native of New York, said she had already moved to Georgia before the attacks occurred, but she recalled worrying about her father’s safety. He worked in downtown Manhattan, a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.
“You couldn’t get through on the phone so you didn’t know what was going on,” Crawford said. “It was terrifying because you’re also thinking, ‘What’s next? What else is going to happen?’”
Gwinnett schools Superintendent Calvin Watts: It's uncertain when GCPS face mask mandate could end
Gwinnett County Public Schools students could be required to wear face masks for awhile — or maybe not too much longer.
There’s no clear answer on when the district’s face mask mandate could end, according to GCPS Superintendent Calvin Watts.
The superintendent talked briefly with the Daily Post on Wednesday about COVID-19 cases in the schools, mitigation efforts and the face mask mandate. Watts did not put the mandate in place — his predecessor, J. Alvin Wilbanks, established the latest mandate days before his tenure as schools chief ended — but it is Watts’ decision on when to end it.
“It’s hard to determine,” Watts said about when the mandate could end. “Like anything else in this COVID environment, it’s hard to predict really anything with a degree of certainty.
“But, what I can say is as long as we have our mask mandate, we’ll be doing so to ensure the safety of our students and our staff. We believe it is certainly the right thing to do during this time until such time that data or recommendations from the CDC change.”
As of Friday, there were 919 current active confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Gwinnett schools. That number is up from the 706 total active cases reported in the district on Tuesday, but it is also down from the 1,054 active cases that were reported on Sept. 1. The district reported it has 211 current probable cases of COVID-19, however.
Probable cases are people who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are developing symptoms that indicate they may have it as well, but have not yet received a positive test result.
There were 141 new confirmed cases, including 130 students, and 35 new probable cases that were reported by schools on Thursday, which is the latest date included in the report released by the district on Friday.
Watts said the cases that showing up in the schools are the product of community spread.
“Like most school districts, we are still grappling with the challenges community spread provides for us because our students live in the community, but they also join us in our schools,” he said. “We do have our mitigation strategies operating at current high levels, whether they be masks being worn by students and staff, providing incentives for vaccinations and doing what we can to make sure our schools are safe.”
The superintendent also said the district has not made changes to its mitigation strategies in light of the growing number of positive cases in the schools. The Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused a surge of new cases of the disease to pop up since late July.
“We’ve essentially stayed with our plan in terms of masks and mitigation strategies,” Watts said. “Those same strategies (announced at the beginning of the school year) are still in place.”
But, the mask mandate is the one mitigation effort in the district that has proven to be controversial. A group of four parents filed a lawsuit against the district in Gwinnett County Superior Court on Aug. 30 in a bid to get the courts to force the end of the mandate.
The parents who filed the lawsuit are Justin and Meghann Verrier, Margaret Rudnick and Holly Terei.
A hearing on motions in the case — the parents are seeking an emergency restraining order to prevent the district from enforcing the mandate while GCPS has filed a motion to dismiss the case — is scheduled to take place Sept. 28 before Superior Court Judge Deborah Fluker.
The lawsuit argues that Gov. Brian Kemp prohibited school systems from issuing mask mandates and accuses GCPS of acting “as its own legislative branch” by issuing a mask mandate.
“Essentially, the Gwinnett County School District has taken advantage of the situation in an attempt to unconstitutionally expand its powers beyond that which is provided for under the Georgia Constitution and Georgia statutes,” the parents attorney, Mitch Skandalakis, wrote in the lawsuit.
“What is the most concerning and disheartening aspect of the abuse of power is that the school district is doing so without giving a single thought to the dangers posed by forcing a student to wear a soiled, spit-soaked, bacteria/virus infested mask right next to the nose and mouth of the student for eight or more hours at a time.”
The district, in its motion to dismiss the case, argued that it has sovereign immunity under Georgia law to issue a mask mandate if it believes one is necessary.
“Plaintiffs’ complaint and motion for emergency temporary restraining order both fail to identify an applicable waiver of the district’s sovereign immunity,” GCPS attorney Stephen D. Pereira wrote in the motion to dismiss the case. “There has in fact been no waiver of sovereign immunity for the claims made by plaintiffs against the district or for claims against Watts in his official capacity.
“Consequently, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claims brought by the plaintiffs in this case and the complaint and motion seeking injunctive relief should be dismissed.”
Gwinnett County, Piedmont Eastside offering rare public-private health partnership to provide COVID vaccination clinic
With its emergency and ICU beds filling up because of a new surge in COVID patients, Piedmont Hospital-Eastside has formed a unique partnership with Gwinnett County government to provide access to vaccines to people in the southern part of the county.
The county has been working with the hospital in a public-private partnership since June to provide a vaccination clinic at Eastside’s campus in Snellville. It is currently the only hospital that Gwinnett County government has a partnership with to operate a vaccination clinic.
“We started these conversations earlier this year,” Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said. “We got our site (with the county health department) launched in Duluth, at the (former) Sears location, but we wanted to make sure we had coverage in the southeastern portion of the county because that’s where we were seeing, I would say, disparities in terms of access to vaccines at the time.
“So, I reached out to my friend here (Piedmont Eastside CEO Trent Lind) and just said ‘Hey,’ and started the conversation.”
Hendrickson and Lind said the partnership between Eastside and the county government is rare. The chairwoman said she’s talked to colleagues in other counties in the metro Atlanta area and couldn’t find a similar partnership.
“We’re really leading the way because other governments are working with the health departments or working independently but having a hospital like Piedmont Eastside is very valuable in our community and having that relationship allowed us to form this partnership,” she said.
“And, I haven’t seen anything like this in other jurisdictions. When I talk to my peers in other counties, they don’t have similar partnerships — so we really are leading the way.”
Lind added, “We’re not sure how many public-private partnerships like this there are” in Georgia or across the nation.
The county is providing Eastside with money it received through the CARES Acts last year to support the clinic. Hendrickson said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux also worked on ways to get congressional appropriation funding from FEMA to help support the clinic.
The county and Eastside then worked with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to set up a memorandum of understanding to get the clinic up and running.
There have been 750 vaccine shots administered at the clinic at Eastside since June 12. The clinic is staffed by contracted personnel so Eastside’s staff won’t be deterred from treating patients who are coming into the hospital during the latest surge in COVID-related hospitalizations.
Cathy Philpott, a nurse from Florida who is working as the clinic’s site administrator, said vaccinations began to pick up steadily as the Delta variant began to spread and the start of the school year approached. Students ages 12 and older can get vaccinated against COVID.
More school-age children who are old enough to get the vaccine are showing up now at the clinic, Philpott added.
“We average 10 minors a day,” she said. “Last week, two sets of parents brought their kids on their birthday, so as soon as they were eligible, we were kind of celebrating with them.”
Eastside, like other hospitals around the country, has seen an uptick in hospitalizations during the “fourth wave” of COVID-19 that is being driven by the Delta variant.
Lind said the hospital is being pushed to its limits by the latest surge in COVID-related hospitalizations.
“We’re at capacity and we’ve been at capacity here at Eastside really just throughout this surge,” Lind said. “The one part that maybe the public does understand is you hear a bit about the compression challenges that are put on the hospitals across our country, and it’s real and it’s a combination of COVID patients as well as ... care that needs to be delivered (to non COVID patients).”
One common theme that Eastside, as well as other hospitals are seeing is that many of their COVID patients in emergency room and ICU beds are people who are not vaccinated. Lind said more than 90% of COVID patients at the hospital — including every COVID patient who is being treated in Eastside’s ICU — are not vaccinated against the disease.
Still, Lind said that Gwinnett is doing better than other counties in Georgia because it has a higher vaccination rate. The Georgia Department of Public Health says 50% of all Gwinnettians are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 56% of the county’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
“If you look at positivity rates as well as hospitalizations as a result across the state of Georgia, we’re at 50% of what the state averages right now,” Lind said.
While Eastside is the only hospital that Gwinnett County is working with, it is not the only health outlet the county has partnered with to make vaccinations available to the public.
It teamed up with the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health District earlier this year to launch a mass vaccination site at the former Sears location at Gwinnett Place Mall. That site is still in operation.
“We just wanted to make sure we had coverage out in this area,” Hendrickson said of the desire to have a vaccination clinic in south Gwinnett. “That was really the end goal in ensuring that our folks on this side of the county had access to vaccines, and that they were accessible to the folks that needed it the most.
“We have a high African-American population on this side of the county and we wanted to make sure that we were not creating any vaccine deserts per se by launching sites in central Gwinnett so this was a great partnership.”
The clinic is offered on Tuesdays and Fridays, starting at 8 a.m. each day. The vaccinations are offered — walk-ins are accepted without a reservation — until 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, but the clinic stays open until 8 p.m. on Fridays.
The reason why the clinic is open later on Fridays is because it switches from a walk-in set up to a drive thru set up from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.
The clinic is offered at Piedmont Eastside’s Medical Plaza 2 building, which is located at 1800 Tree Lane, Suite 250, in Snellville.
Lawrenceville police asking for information in fatal hit and run accident
Lawrenceville police are looking for a driver accused of hitting a pedestrian in a fatal hit and run accident near Georgia Gwinnett College early Wednesday morning.
Police said the accident occurred on the State Route 316 westbound exit ramp at Collins Hill Road at about 1 a.m. Wednesday. A car hit Lawrenceville resident Frances Megland, 21, who was found by law enforcement with critical injuries.
Gwinnett firefighter paramedics took Megland to Northside Gwinnett Hospital for treatment and he died from his injuries on Thursday.
Police have not released a description of the vehicle.
“This is an ongoing investigation and the Lawrenceville Police Department is seeking help from (members of) the public that may have information about the accident,” police said in a statement.
Anyone who has information about the accident is asked to call Sgt. D. Haney at 770-670-5061 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They should reference case no. 21090136.
Gwinnett police arrest murder suspects during patrol detail
During a patrol detail last weekend Gwinnett police arrested two men wanted on murder charges
Stephan Benjamin and Calvin Clemons were taken into custody during the high saturation patrol detail that was conducted on Sept. 3 and Sept. 4. Benjamin, who is wanted on an outstanding murder warrant from DeKalb County, was arrested on Sept. 3. Clemons, who is wanted for murder in Buffalo, N.Y. , was then arrested on Sept. 4.
“In two separate instances, two homicide suspects were arrested, among other arrests,” Police Officer Senior Hideshi Valle said. “This detail utilized units from within the police department to collaborate and direct our resources to combat community safety issues. Officers from the Gang Unit, Community Response Teams, Special Operations Units, Communications, and the Aviation Unit were involved in the detail with support from Uniform Division officers.”
Police arrested 15 people, including 11 who were wanted for felonies and four wanted for misdemeanors, during the 220 self-initiated calls that were part of the patrol detail. They also issued 82 traffic citations and 15 miscellaneous citations during 188 traffic stops.
Six firearms were also recovered during the patrol detail.
“We will continue to combat crime through proactive details,” Valle said. “The resolve to keep Gwinnett a safe flourishing community where residents, businesses, and visitors feel secure remains a top priority of the Gwinnett Police Department.”
Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent Calvin Watts says business community's support needed in classrooms
If there was one message that could be taken away from Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent Calvin Watts’ first State of the Schools Address to the county’s business leaders on Wednesday, it’s that their help is needed to ensure the district’s students can achieve success.
Watts came back to the theme of community support for the schools a few times during his speech to the Gwinnett Chamber during a luncheon at the Gas South Convention Center. He talked about families supporting the schools and the education of children, but, given his audience, he narrowed in on the need for support from the business community in particular, calling on them to join “Team GCPS.”
“Your involvement in our schools — it’s not only important, it’s critical,” Watts said. “As schools’ business partners, as supporters of Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation, as key partners in our Career and Technical Education programs, in these ways and many more, you are making a difference.
“You’re making a difference, not just in Gwinnett County Public Schools, but more importantly you’re making a difference in the lives of children, and their families and caregivers.”
Watts is just over a month into his job as GCPS’ superintendent and CEO. He was hired at the end of July to replace former Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, who led the district for a quarter of a century, so his State of the Schools Address on Wednesday was the first opportunity several members of the business community had to hear him talk about the school system.
While the need for community support was a major part of Watts’ speech, he told the Daily Post that he also wanted to use it as a chance to let the business community know life in the district is returning to somewhat of a normal environment after the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions for more than a year. Many students did digital learning last year rather than attend classes in person.
This year is significantly different, Watts said.
“I think the most important aspect of my address ... was to provide a current state of how our schools are performing, the fact that we are proud to open this school year with 97% of our students learning in person, and to also understand that we cannot do this work alone,” Watts said.
“So, to the second priority is making sure our business community understands the importance of the relationship between our schools success and their partnering with us.”
Watts is also pushing the community to participate in a survey that GCPS is conducting to see what areas community members want the district to address. The survey is available at bit.ly/3hihvKh and it will be open through Oct. 12.
Watts’ speech touched on the start of the 2021-2022 school year, which began with a staggered start to in-person learning in early August.
“As we begin this year, I am proud, honored, excited to say that we are off to a great start,” Watts said.
The superintendent’s address to the chamber highlighted programs offered to students in GCPS. These programs include the new School of the Arts which opened last month at Central Gwinnett High School; the dual language emersion programs in Spanish, French and Korean offered at several elementary and middle schools; the film and digital arts program at Berkmar High School; agricultural technology programs at Archer, Grayson and Brookwood; and the district’s computer science for all and robotics programs.
Programs such as the ones highlighted at the luncheon will have long-lasting impacts on the community, that will stretch beyond the end of the 21st century, according to Watts.
“We have children who will be born in the next five years, even less than that given life expectancy, who will still be living, still be with us in the 22nd century,” he said. “What does 22nd century learning need to look like? What does 22nd century readiness need to look like?
“These are the questions that we are posing to our students and to the adults who serve them.”
But, the superintendent reiterated his assertion that children stand to benefit from teamwork between the school system and the business community. He told business leaders that students can learn at “increasingly higher levels” if they have more access and opportunities in career and college preparatory education.
“Working together, we can ensure that our children will thrive,” Watts said. “And, when I say thrive, what I mean by thriving is our students will make real progress beyond our schools.
“They will be successful and significant. They will come back to our community and build upon the success that is happening right here, right now beyond the classroom as we help them step out of that shadow that is elementary school, middle school, high school to that next grade level, to college, to career and in life as active members of this community.”
And, Gwinnett Chamber President and CEO Nick Masino told attendees at the luncheon that there is an opportunity coming up for them to get involved in the schools.
“The superintendent did tell us we were all on Team Gwinnett County Public Schools and I will share with you that if you’d like to get on the field, we have a couple of spots open for Principal for a Day,” Masino said. “We have probably sent about 700 emails about that.”
Gwinnett Police Department seeking funding to add 30 new officer positions in 2022
The Gwinnett County Police Department is asking for an allocation of more than $2.3 million in the county’s 2022 budget to add 30 new officer positions.
Police Chief J.D. McClure made the pitch to a citizens review panel during his department’s business plan presentation last week. The police department has asked for, and gotten, new sworn officers positions in county budgets several times in recent years as county leaders try to keep up with the public safety needs of a growing county.
“Our goal is to reach a staffing ratio of 1.3 police officers per 1,000 citizens,” McClure told the review panel on Sept. 1. “The projected increase in service population means an increase in service demand.”
Overall, the police department is proposing a $172.3 million department budget within the county government’s overall 2022 budget. That includes $3.1 million in decision packages — which are requests for new positions, initiatives, programs and facility needs — as well as $9 million in changes to the base for personal services and general operating costs.
But, a big ask from the police department is the request for additional officers. McClure pointed to studies that showed significant increases in the number of people the department will have to serve in the coming years.
“According to research by Woods and Poole, Gwinnett County can expect an increase in our service population of 11.59% over the next five years,” he told the citizens panel. “An increased service population results in an increased demand for police services.”
The police department is not the only law enforcement agency asking for additional positions in the county’s 2022 budget. Officials from the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office asked the panel to include 50 positions, including 37 sworn deputies, in the budget in a separate presentation.
Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Cleo Atwater said the office is asking for 50 new positions, including 37 sworn deputy and 13 civilian positions.
The additional officers is not the only request the police department is asking to have include included in the county budget. McClure told the citizens panel that the department wants $496,560 for a partnership with Viewpoint Health to provide a certified clinician at each of the department’s six precincts.
The police department is also asking for $185,818 to relocate the Internal Affairs Units to “an offsite location.” McClure told the panel that the relocation is designed to help build trust with the community.
“One of the things we’ve heard from citizens over the years is, in some cases, when those citizens want to come forward and lodge a complaint of misconduct, that they feel intimidated by coming to a building with an overwhelming police presence,” McClure said. “What we’ve identified is the idea of finding a nondescript commercial space where our citizens will feel more comfortable coming forward, and it’s also applies to our employees.”
The police department is asking the citizens review panel to consider a request to allocate $52,000 from the 911 Fund and $32,500 from the Police Fund for a mental wellness program.
The program would be available to members of the department’s homicide and assault, special victim’s, accident investigation and crime scene investigations units; the Computer Forensics Lab; the communications section; and the uniform patrol division. Members of the uniform patrol division would have to meet with medical providers in the program depending on the case they are working on, however.
Members of the units and divisions will periodically visit mental health professionals to talk about any stress or second-hand trauma they are dealing with from their work.
“We looked at the mental health component in terms of working with the community and working with our citizens in crisis, but we also saw an internal need to make sure that our employees are functioning at their best,” McClure said. “And one of the things that makes me proud about this decision is that this was an idea that grew from within this organization from the bottom.
“So, it wasn’t just the leaders sitting around talking about what was needed. We listened to our people and what they requested.”
The money from the 911 Fund would be spent on providing the program to the communications section, which handles 911 calls, while the money from the Police Fund would be used to provide the program to the other units and divisions.
Gwinnett BOC Chair Nicole Love Hendrickson: No transit referendum in 2022, but short-term projects are being considered
There will not be a referendum on transit expansion put before voters in 2022, according to the top elected official in county government.
After two referendums on transit expansion were put before voters in 2019 and 2020 — with both of them being rejected — it would be understandable if residents have been wondering if Gwinnett’s leaders plan to put another transit referendum on the 2022 ballot.
But, Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson was clear on whether the commission plans to call for another vote next year.
“We are not,” she said after a recent press conference at Gwinnett Place Mall. “We are back at the drawing board. We went back to the drawing board because there is so much unknown right now with where things stand with the pandemic and in a post-pandemic world, what does transportation (and traffic congestion) look like.
“We really want to study where we are today and not base (a vote on) an old plan, you know force the citizens to vote on an old plan. We want to start from scratch.”
The county is now revisiting its comprehensive transportation plan, which will be updated in a process that is expected to take two years to complete.
But, while the county is starting over from scratch on a transportation plan, Hendrickson is not ruling out the possibility of a referendum coming up at a later date, whether that be in 2024 or sometime thereafter.
“If rail or mass transit comes out of the planning process, and we need to figure out a way to fund it, then we’ll have that conversation about a referendum,” the chairwoman said. “But, in the meantime, my goal is to try to get immediate short term projects implemented now.
“We can’t wait for a referendum conversation. We can’t wait for a heavy rail conversation. There are projects that we can implement now because we have transit-dependent residents. We have place-based communities, like seniors, that can’t get around. We have a traffic and congestion problem. We can’t wait four years to call a referendum. We need to do things now and there are ways to do that.”
- By Curt Yeomans email@example.com
One such way to address transportation needs is through the county’s annual budget.
Although the referendums put before voters in recent years would have entailed broad expansions of transit, the county has occasionally done small expansions through its annual budget.
One such expansion, which added a small number of routes, was initiated in the county’s 2016 budget. One of those routes was the commuter bus route that takes Gwinnettians to the Emory and CDC area.
The county may take a similar approach in its 2022 budget. A budget request made by the county’s transportation department during its business plan presentation on Aug. 31 included adding five local bus routes, a commuter bus route and microtransit in the Snellville area.
The commuter bus route would run between Dacula and Atlanta while the local routes would extend service to areas such as Suwanee, Snellville and the Mall of Georgia area.
Hendrickson did not rule out the possibility that she will use the county budget to add bus routes, indicating at least some of the requested routes could end up in the proposed budget that she will unveil later this year.
“We are looking at that,” she said. “We are looking at all of the projects that can be implemented within a two-year time frame that have already been studied, have been looked at. Those are the projects that we need to start rolling out now.
“We can’t wait two years for the update to the CTP plan. There are things in the plan that are those low-hanging fruit that we can start implementing now, and there’s still funding in the SPLOST, the 2017 SPLOST, where we can still get some of those up and running. We’re looking at all of the short-term immediate transportation improvement projects that we can implement now to make sure we can bring options to our transit-dependent communities.”
Snellville police say one of their officers injured in car crash on Scenic Highway
Scenic Highway was shut down between Wisteria Dr. and Dogwood Rd. Thursday afternoon, Snellville police said, after one of their officers was involved in a car wreck.
Snellville police said traffic was shut down on Scenic Highway in both directions during the investigation, which happened after a driver pulled out in front of a Snellville officer who was responding to a call.
Detective Corporal Jeff Manley of the Snellville Police Department told Daily Post news partner Fox 5 Atlanta that the squad car had its lights and siren on when it was hit.
Both the officer and two people in the other vehicle were hospitalized, police said. The department posted a statement on Facebook Thursday night with an update on the situation.
"Many are asking about our officer involved in the accident. He is doing well, and should be released from hospital soon," the statement said. "The two other people that were transported to the hospital are being treated for some serious but non-life threatening injuries."
The Georgia State Patrol is investigating, police said.
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- Gwinnett police searching for suspect in triple shooting that killed one at a Norcross karaoke bar
- How to start the Mediterranean diet — meal by meal
- Police arrest man accused of killing Gwinnett Water Resources employee in hit and run accident
- Sugar Hill hires retired Gwinnett cop as city's first public safety director
- ON THE MARKET: Pool, wooded backyard with koi pond highlight this Suwanee estate
- Weekly Gwinnett County restaurant health inspections for Sept. 19, 2021
- MUGS: 10 felony bookings in Gwinnett County Jail
- IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Top Gwinnett County stories from Sept. 13-19
- GET OUT THERE: 5 things to do this weekend in Gwinnett County — Sept. 24-26
- PHOTOS: Gwinnett Animal Shelter Adoptable Pets of the Week — Sept. 20
- PHOTOS: Barrow County Animal Control Adoptable Pets of the Week — Sept. 20
- Oldest national parks in America
- PHOTOS: Scenes from Uptown Funk — Tribute to Bruno Mars in Lawrenceville
- GET OUT THERE: 5 things to do this weekend in Gwinnett County — Sept. 17-19
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This is not a scientific poll — results reflect only the opinions of those voting.