Time running out for Gwinnett sexual assault center

The Gwinnett Sexual Assault Center and Children’s Advocacy Center could be without a home come July 1.

The city of Duluth recently denied GSAC’s request to stay past July 1 in the renovated ranch house it has called home for nearly a quarter century. City Manager Tim Shearer first informed the non-profit organization — which performs forensic-medical evidentiary examinations of adult and child victims of rape and sexual assault, among other services — that it would have to vacate the property in a letter sent last September. That letter referred to “termite infestations and other maintenance issues” at the city-owned house, which Duluth has rented to GSAC for $1 a year since 1989.

GSAC board president John Bedard Jr. recently requested the extension while the organization searches for a new location. Police generally prefer to conduct victim interviews at GSAC because it has rooms specifically designed for that purpose. The center also has evidence storage facilities, victims advocates and lawyers to assist with civil matters.

In 2012, GSAC provided services to 1,753 individuals, including 254 forensic exams performed by specially trained and certified nurses, according to executive director Ann Burdges.

In his response to Bedard, Shearer acknowledged GSAC’s “important work” but again cited termites, mold and an additional hazard not mentioned in the first letter — asbestos — as the reason for upholding the decision to end the lease on July 1 and demolish the building soon after. There currently is no specific plan for developing the property, which is tucked between Buford Highway and Main Street, Shearer said in an interview last week.

“I really can’t in good conscience grant them permission to stay there when I know there are safety issues and health issues with the building,” Shearer said. “The city does not have any other inhabitable spaces that we would be able to offer them,” he added.