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Gwinnett's year that was 

Between growth, gangs and Gateway, Gwinnett had an eventful 2000

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Explosive growth also prompted the need for the county to seek a permit to dump treated sewage into Lake Lanier, upsetting lakeside homeowners and environmentalists. In November, Georgia environmental officials issued the permit allowing the county to dump up to 40 million gallons of wastewater a day into the popular lake to enable Gwinnett to accommodate future growth.

Other signs of county-wide growth include the opening of additional post offices in Lawrenceville and Centreville, where the unincorporated community celebrated its first operational postal facility since 1903.

Residents still balked at over-commercialization, especially when it came to a beloved landmark. Plans to spend $75 million to transform Stone Mountain into a theme park by the park's private operator Silver Dollar City brought a firestorm of protest from longtime park lovers who vowed to oppose any proposal that would turn it into a Confederate-flavored version of Dollywood.

HILL STILL STANDING
Meanwhile, the man opponents tried to paint as the King of Sprawl, commission chairman Hill, survived a high-profile attempt to unseat him. The "Boot Hill" campaign took to cyberspace with a website devoted to dethroning the Republican; Hill opponents showed their solidarity by paying $20 for "Boot Hill" T-shirts, wearing cowboy boots and tying baby boots to their car antennas.

As the nation began its five-week wait to find out who the next president would be, Hill handily defeated Democratic challenger John Kenney in November.

To counter his pro-development image during the campaign, Hill pointed to the amount of green space the county has been able to acquire during his tenure, including 217 acres along the Chattahoochee River set aside in 1999. More is on the way. In 2000, Gwinnett was allocated $2.7 million from the Georgia Greenspace Commission to protect more land. Gwinnett cities Suwanee, Sugar Hill and Berkeley Lake also were awarded state grants to help acquire green space.

As it continues to evolve from its bucolic beginnings, Gwinnett finds itself the scene for an increasing number of urban-style crimes. Police linked the shooting death of a 24-year-old college student outside of a TGI Friday's restaurant in Duluth last January to gang members. A group of bank robbers known as the "Trash Can Gang" allegedly knocked over a Norcross jewelry store. And, in late October, two teenage girls associated with the Latin gang Vatos Locos were charged with shooting two other teenage girls, killing one, at the Pinckneyville Park Soccer Complex in Norcross. The incident represents metro Atlanta's first girl-on-girl gang-related slaying.

Another highly publicized crime saga involved a Gwinnett County baby sitter who was cleared of murdering a 16-month-old infant in her care. It was determined that the infant's fatal head injuries were sustained before the child was dropped off with the sitter. Still, a jury found Myhoa Hoang of Stone Mountain guilty of cruelty to and deprivation of a child, earning her two years and seventh months in prison.

A smaller sentence also was doled out to cop-killer Byron Fleming, who narrowly escaped the electric chair for the 1998 slaying of Gwinnett sheriff deputy Kenneth Lee Wemberly. The jury found him guilty of murder, but couldn't arrive at a unanimous decision on the death penalty. The final tally was 11-1, angering many officers in the sheriff's department as Fleming will be eligible for parole in 14 years.

To keep up with the upswing in crime, ground was broken last July on the county's new $21 million Comprehensive Correctional Complex at the corner of Hi-Hope Road and Swanson Drive. Set to open this fall, the new facility will be the largest county prison in Georgia, with the ability to house 800 prisoners, including 250 state felons -- for which the county will collect $3.2 million in state funds.

While serious issues, problems and events dominated headlines in 2000, Gwinnett County had its share of bizarre, "makes you say hmmm" happenings in the first year of the 21st century as well. Witness:

Plans to secure a minimum $50,000 bid for naming North Gwinnett High's new baseball diamond solicited on the online auction house eBay struck out when school officials said the booster club never sought permission to seek benefactors on the Net. The Suwanee school reverted to the traditional approach and named the field after former North Gwinnett coach and principal Kenneth "Coach Mac" McDaniel.

Snellville officials weren't keen on loosening their chastity belts even a little to allow Danielle Strumer to sell certain sexual stimulation devices from her dress and lingerie shop, Satin & Lace.

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