UPDATE: Gwinnett, Cities OK SDS Deal; Cities Stand To Receive Millions in Funds
A joint city-county ceremony was held Tuesday evening in Lawrenceville.
Updated Feb. 8, 2012
Suwanee, Loganville, Lilburn, Norcross and Dacula added their approvals Tuesday evening to the Service Delivery Strategy agreement. Earlier Tuesday, the Gwinnett County Board Of Commissioners approved the deal with cities in the Gwinnett Municipal Association (GwMA), doing their part to end a multimillion-dollar dispute that began in 2009.
Showing the fluidity of the situation, the agenda item on the SDS matter was added by the BOC after its afternoon meeting began.
"This is still active litigation," noted BOC Chairman Charlotte Nash after the commissioners' approval.
However, terms of the settlement strongly favor the cities, and are in the $20 million range. For instance, some terms call for Gwinnett to make a $5.1 million, one-time payment to the cities (excluding Lilburn) and $1.5 million yearly through 2018 to the cities (excluding Lilburn).
Lilburn would get $413,000 one time, and $120,000 yearly for seven years.
Nash said the 2012 tax rates will not be affected by the settlement. "We think it's good for everyone," Nash said.
“An agreement has been reached,” said Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson in a released statement. “The parties have worked continuously since the Court’s final ruling in October 2011 by addressing the County’s unique budgeting and service provision issues. The Court provided clarity to the parties that allowed us to resolve these differences. In the last two weeks, both sides have come together to address the remaining tax equity and service issue disputes.”
Other terms will be reported here soon. Also, the settlement still has to be approved by Judge David Barrett of Blairsville. Payments would begin in May and end in the 2018 fiscal year, if the judge and cities approve.
A joint city-county ceremony was held Tuesday night at the Historic Courthouse in Lawrenceville. "A county the size of Gwinnett ... if that group of folks puts their mind to it and is pulling in the same direction, I don't think there's anybody that can lick us." Nash said at the ceremony. (See attached video.)
The dispute began when the county sued cities in the GwMA. At issue was whether the cities would pay the county for services they do not use, such as police.
Suwanee's official agenda read:
"Resolution to approve Consent Order, Joint Resolutions, Intergovernmental Agreements and to authorize execution and attestation of documents and election to not join Police Service District."
The "police service district" is a reference to the court ruling that was handed down in September by Barrett. That ruling strongly favored the cities in the dispute, and ordered Gwinnett County officlals to set up a special district to administer such functions as police.
Also, notable fallout from the dispute is that police agencies in several Gwinnett cities and the Gwinnett Police can't use radar or laser to track speeders.
A Suwanee Police spokesperson said Tuesday that it would be up to city officials to reapply for Most Favored Cities status. That would be necessary to reacquire the right to use radar and laser, as well as for the city to receive state loans and grants. That can't happen until the judge formally approves the SDS deal.
Various Patch editors in Gwinnett County contributed to this report.