Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flood Recovery Center to Open

A disaster recovery center will open tomorrow at 8 a.m. to assist residents and business owners who were victims of recent flooding. Gwinnett County residents and business owners who sustained losses can visit the center, which is located at the Mountain Park Depot, 5050 Five Forks Trickum Road in Lilburn, between the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week to apply for federal emergency assistance. County government worked closely with FEMA and GEMA to establish the center, according to Gwinnett Emergency Management’s Greg Swanson. The center will remain open until further notice.

Commission Chairman Charles Bannister said, “We are grateful to FEMA, GEMA and Gwinnett Emergency Management for their hard work to make sure Gwinnett County was included in the federal disaster declaration. Last week’s flooding took a severe toll on many of our residents and their property. While recovery will take some time, I’m hopeful federal disaster aid will help those families and businesses in our community that need it to become whole again.”

The federal declaration covers individual assistance and can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration will also be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance. In addition, Gwinnett County government will also be eligible to receive federal funds for damage as a result of the recent floods.

In addition to visiting the Disaster Recovery Center, it is also possible to apply for aid online or by telephone. Applications can be submitted online at www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

County Administrator Glenn Stephens said, “I’m very proud of what County workers did under sudden and often-changing conditions during the emergency phase last week. Now that we have moved beyond the life-safety crisis, our staff will continue to take any and all actions necessary and feasible to assist residents as they begin the recovery process.”
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Helpful Guide for Gwinnett Citizens from Tax Commissioner

Now that Gwinnett citizens have received their 2009 temporary tax bills, the Tax Commissioner is receiving a large number of calls and emails from citizens with questions about their bills, property assessments, school tax, millage rates and more.

“I want to make sure citizens get prompt and accurate information when they have questions. There are many County offices involved in property tax issues, and it can be confusing,” explained Katherine Meyer, Gwinnett Tax Commissioner.

Below is information to help guide citizens to the right offices for answers.

Gwinnett Tax Commissioner
· Bills and collects Gwinnett property taxes
· Administers homestead exemptions
· Note: The 2009 tax bill that property owners just received is a temporary bill until a final millage rate is approved by the Board of Commissioners. A final notice of taxes may be sent if additional taxes or a refund is due.
· 770-822-8800, email tax@gwinnettcounty.com, website www.GwinnettTaxCommissioner.com

Gwinnett Tax Assessor’s Office
· Assesses property values
· Reviews property assessment appeals
· 770-822-7220 or email assessor@gwinnettcounty.com.
· Note: The Tax Commissioner has no authority for the assessment of property and is not involved in that process.

Gwinnett Board of Commissioners
Sets County property tax millage rate
770-822-7000 or www.gwinnettcounty.com.

Gwinnett Board of Education
Adopts school system property tax millage rate
678-301-6200 or www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us

Gwinnett Stormwater Utility
Administers stormwater service
678-376-7193 or www.gwinnettstormwater.com.

Gwinnett Traffic Engineering and Planning
Responsible for street lights and speed tables
770-822-7462

Important to remember: Gwinnett property owners may see an increase in their tax bills due to state government budget cuts that included the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant (HTRG). Additionally, the fair market value of property may have changed resulting in an increase in the amount owed. Learn more at www.GwinnettTaxCommissioner.com.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two Million Dollars in Asset/Forfeiture Money from Drug Cartels Presented to Gwinnett Law Enforcement

Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Gregory Jones, on behalf of the David G. Wilhelm Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force, is pleased to provide the following information:

The David G. Wilhelm OCDETF Strike Force is well into its third year, having been established on March 29, 2007. The concept of the Strike Force was initiated by the various special agents in charge of the federal law enforcement agencies here in Atlanta, along with the United States Attorney, who participate in the (OCDETF). It was recognized that a special collaborative effort was necessary to better combat the drug distribution and collection of drug proceeds throughout the metro Atlanta area as it was further recognized that the Atlanta area had established itself as a hub for this activity.

The Wilhelm Strike Force brings together the assets and strengths of the various federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies into a co-located task force. This serves as a force multiplier in investigating and prosecuting high level members of the international drug cartels that have operations in metro Atlanta and throughout the United States. As part of its effort to dismantle these criminal organizations, forfeiture of profits and seizure of assets from these organizations is paramount.

Today we reaffirm our partnership with the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department and the Lawrenceville Police Department in the joint endeavors of the Wilhelm Strike Force and their commitment in making the community a safer place for all.

The Strike Force is pleased to present to our partners with checks totaling $1,102,556.42. In addition to these monies, an additional $1,005,000 will be going to these same partners within the next month. These monies are derived from assets forfeited and/or seized in Operation Grand Finale, an 18-month-long investigation wherein the many varied law enforcement agencies worked together to disrupt a major cell of a Mexican cartel, a notoriously violent drug trafficking organization, and took a major step towards eradicating a significant threat to our economic and national security. During this investigation, agents and officers have seized approximately 581 kilograms of cocaine, approximately 219 pounds of methamphetamines, and approximately $3.5 million in currency. To date, federal charges have been filed against 16 defendants in several states. This investigation determined that the targeted organization regularly transported large quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana from Mexico to Atlanta, and then transported currency accumulated from the sale of the illegal drugs back from Atlanta to McAllen, Texas, and then on to the organization’s leaders in Mexico.

Today’s presentations are not only an example of what can be accomplished by a metro Atlanta law enforcement community working together, but also an opportunity to recognize that partnership that is so needed and appreciated.

Administrative Matter:
Lawrenceville PD: $321,133.02
$251,067.50
Subtotal: $572,200.52
$603,000.00
Total: $1,175,200.50

Gwinnett County S/O: $321,133.02
$209,222.92
Subtotal: $530,355.94
$402,000.00
Total: $932,255.94

Grand Total: $2,107,456.40

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Judge Grants Order on State Sanction in City-County SDS Dispute

On Tuesday, Gwinnett County received an order to hold state sanctions in abeyance while the County and city governments continue to litigate their service delivery dispute. The order, requested by the County, was granted by the judge presiding over the litigation. The current 10-year strategy, as set forth in state legislation that became effective in 1999, expired Feb. 28. Missing the deadline for a new 10-year strategy with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs placed Gwinnett and each of its cities in an “unqualified status.” The sanctions resulting from the unqualified status could have resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in state-administered financial assistance, grants, loans or permits to Gwinnett County and Gwinnett’s cities.

Superior Court Judge David E. Barrett’s order comes after Gwinnett’s cities had asked the judge to have sanctions reimposed 30 days after the judge rules on a County motion for partial summary judgment on the use of unincorporated revenues.

Prior to that, a March 3 order holding sanctions in abeyance during the mediation process was opposed by attorneys representing Gwinnett’s cities because it was not signed by the out-of-circuit judge assigned to the case and that order was vacated. However, Judge Barrett ruled in April that the sanctions would be held in abeyance throughout the mediation process.

“Sanctions ultimately just hurt the citizens, and I am pleased the judge agreed with the County’s position. The judge’s action is in line with our goal to work towards a service delivery solution for every resident in Gwinnett County without losing the necessary funding that benefits Gwinnett County and its cities,” said County Administrator Glenn Stephens.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Location Change for Beaudreau Monthly Meeting

Gwinnett County District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau’s next monthly meeting will be held on Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Lakeview Clubhouse conference room at 1669 Hamilton Mill Parkway in Dacula instead of Harbins Park Pavilion. The commissioner will meet with constituents from 10 a.m. to noon.

Gwinnett County’s Commission District 3 covers the eastern part of the county from the Highway 78 corridor north to I-85, and includes the cities of Snellville, Loganville, Grayson, Dacula and Auburn.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Engage Gwinnett Seeks Citizen Input

Engage Gwinnett, the Citizens Committee for the Future of Gwinnett County, is looking for 10 residents willing to spend time over the next six months listening to lots of information about county government and demographic and economic trends, sharing ideas and helping guide the Board of Commissioners actions’ as they make decisions about service levels and funding sources.

An initial meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 9, will explain the Engage Gwinnett committee process, gain public input and provide for the public self-selection of 10 committee representatives. The meeting is 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center auditorium, 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville.

Chairman Charles Bannister and the Board of Commissioners have partnered with the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce to launch an initiative to involve citizens in the County budget decision-making process. They are asking for 30 stakeholder groups to each appoint a citizen representative in addition to these 10 self-selected citizen leaders. Like most local governments around our region and our nation, Gwinnett must balance declining revenues with desired service levels,” said Bannister. “We need informed recommendations from people throughout our community.”

“We plan to strategically involve the community in the process of making informed recommendations about future service levels, funding needs and revenue resources,” said co-chair Bill McCargo, Director of Community Relations for Cisco Systems. “Together, we’ll identify what services the county should provide and at what level. We’ll also look at growth projections and infrastructure plans to help determine funding needs and potential revenue sources.”

The other co-chair is Mike Levengood, a partner in the McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP law firm. “Every citizen in the county has a stake in the direction and the environment we’re creating for future generations,” said Levengood. “We’ll be holding several public forums during this citizen-led initiative to share and gain ideas from the community at large. This is an opportunity for many people to get involved before the decisions are made. It is a worthy community project and Gwinnett citizens deserve our best efforts.”

More information is available on the County website, www.gwinnettcounty.com
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

County Makes More Budget Adjustments

Gwinnett’s separately elected officials and Constitutional officers have agreed to $1.9 million in budget cuts to help commissioners balance the books for 2009. The Board accepted their recommendations on Tuesday and cautioned that another $11 million in cuts will be needed for next year. These cuts are consistent with reductions in budgets throughout the County.

While the Board of Commissioners appropriates funds for departments run by elected officials, they do not directly manage those departments. The officials include the Clerk of Court, Clerk of Recorder’s Court, District Attorney, Judiciary, Juvenile Court, Probate Court, Recorder’s Court, Sheriff, Solicitor and Tax Commissioner.

The County’s Department of Human Resources has offered to work with all these departments to arrange staff reductions through a retirement incentive program in those areas where personnel costs must be reduced. In related action, commissioners approved a retirement incentive program for Probate Court, similar to the one offered to many eligible County employees last month. It is expected to save $59,295 in 2010.
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