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Gwinnett Budget Review: Some Highlights

Government dealing with change and challenges in many areas of the county.

The Gwinnett County budget review sessions are done, and now county leaders will begin the process of finalizing the Fiscal Year 2012 spending plan.

Dealing with a $30 million revenue shortfall will be difficult, but the sessions also showed a county that still continues to deal with strong growth and change.

Some highlights from the sessions:

-- The county's senior population continues to grow. By the year 2020, it will exceed 200,000 people and will be larger than the population of school age children (5-19) for the first time. The county had 91,830 home delivered meals and 59,837 senior center meals in 2011.

-- The county's Community Activities department plans a solar blanket pilot project for the Mountain Park pool in 2012. In all, this department manages 45 county parks covering more than 9,000 acres.

-- The county's trash program (called "solid waste") manages five residential contracts and 17 commercial contracts. It dramatically reduced customer inquiries (37,300 to 9,700) and call center complaints (1,500 to 189) from 2010 to 2011.

-- The biggest new problems for Gwinnett Fire in recent years were Georgia Gwinnett College and Coolray Field. The department plans to relocate Fire Station 10 near the Gwinnett Braves' ballpark. It already owns the land. It wants additional resources at Station 31 to deal with GGC and the surrounding area, which is heavily populated by students.

-- The Hamilton Mill Library gets high marks for modern design and efficiency. Also, the Five Forks, Lilburn and Norcross branches are being renovated with SPLOST funds, and the new "efficiencies" are expected to save money for a library system already hit hard by cutbacks.

-- It costs $45 a day to house an inmate at the Gwinnett jail; the state covers $22.50 of that, but that fee does not kick in until 15 days after an inmate is sentenced. The jail houses 2,750 inmates on average each day, 105 percent of capacity.

-- The Gwinnett court clerk's office is at a "critical point" with case filings. It expects 1,800 filings per clerk in 2012, with 1,675 being the figure sought.

-- The Water and Sewer Department expects to increase revenue by $1 million annually with a large meter testing, repair and replacement program.

-- The Transportation Department maintains the Briscoe Field airport, which conducted 56,800 takeoffs and landings in 2010, making it the fourth-busiest airport in the state.

-- The estimated "cost of crime" in Gwinnett County for 2012 is $464.7 million, according to a study by The Rand Corp., www.rand.org. Gwinnett Police Chief Charles Walters said this includes such things as people being injured or losing their jobs when a business goes under after being burglarized or vandalized.

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The budget review material is online at www.gwinnettcounty.com.

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