Gwinnett schedules referendum on joining MARTAMetro Atlanta relies on a sales tax to help pay for transit services provided by MARTA, the region's largest transit operator. File/Credit: Kelly Jordan
By Maggie Lee
“Success lives here,” goes the official saying about Gwinnett. “But it commutes to Atlanta,” goes an unofficial rejoinder. Well, Gwinnett has taken the first step in maybe setting up more transit, scheduling a public vote on whether to set up a new sales tax to pay to join MARTA.
Gwinnett County Commissioners on Wednesday morning approved a draft contract with MARTA in a 4-1 vote and unanimously voted to schedule a March public referendum on its approval.
Gwinnett would get a similar deal to other MARTA members: a one-cent sales tax through July, 2057 and three seats on the MARTA board.
In exchange, MARTA would take over the operation of Gwinnett’s existing bus service and “implement a major expansion of Gwinnett transit, including linkages to the overall MARTA system,” according to a summary of the draft contract provided by Gwinnett county (and published by the AJC.)
“I believe this is a good contract that’s in the interest of Gwinnett County,” said commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash before the vote.
Commissioner John Heard said he had some reservations, but voted for the draft contract, calling it a “monumental item” for the county and for voters.
More than a dozen members of the public spoke in favor of bringing MARTA to Gwinnett, but several complained about the date of the vote. It’ll be in March next year, not during midterm elections this November.
The March date was a surprise. Gwinnett’s own public notice about the Wednesday meeting suggested a November vote.
State representatives from both sides of Interstate 85, Democrats Pedro Marin and Dewey McClain, both said their constituents want transit and called for a vote when turnout will be higher.
“Let’s put this vote in November so we can hear from a couple hundred thousand people,” Marin told commissioners.
The next step for the deal is MARTA’s board, which has a regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow.