Thursday, May 29, 2008

Forsyth, Cumming settle SPLOST

CUMMING - The sales tax debate is over. Officials from the city of Cumming and Forsyth County successfully negotiated a settlement to end the dispute over the collection of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

Forsyth County Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday morning to sign the intergovernmental agreement. Commissioner David Richard voted against.

Local officials had been working toward negotiating a resolution to the debate over February's sales tax vote by the May 30 deadline set by Judge Hugh Stone. The city and county had disagreed on how to appropriately divide the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) approved by nearly 70 percent of voters earlier this year. The current tax (SPLOST V) would have expired in June.

The majority of SPLOST funds have been designated for transportation as well as other projects.

The agreement includes $10 million from the county's Park and Greenspace bond to construct a public access aquatic center,and $2.5 million toward any of the city's identified SPLOST projects. The deal would also see both sides drop all pending litigation.

Mayor Ford Gravitt said he hopes both parties can move on.

"I hope we can put our differences behind us and move on," he said. "I think the citizens of Forsyth County and Cumming will be happy with the negotiated settlement we were able to come to."

Forsyth County Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said he was "very thankful" for the negotiation.

"I am pleased we were able to come to a useful conclusion," he said. "I think this is what happens when parties sit down with out personal agendas to move toward the good of the citizens of the county."

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Milton gets new development head

Milton's City Hall got a new face last week in the person of Alice Wakefield, the city's new Community Development director. She replaced the city's former director, Tom Wilson, May 27. He has moved into CH2M HILL OMI's corporate offices in Sandy Springs, where he will oversee all the community development departments for the company. Wakefield, who spent the last two years as Atlanta's director of the Bureau of Planning and 11 years as deputy director of Planning for Fulton County, said making the jump to Milton was like coming back home. "Working in Fulton, I got to know a lot of these folks," she said. "I'm familiar with them."
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PHOTO GALLERY: Alpharetta High School graduation ceremonies

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AUDIOLOUNGE: Geoff Achison

Artist: Geoff Achison
Song: Chance

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Geoff Achison brings blues-funk fusion to Buford

The blues is a genre of music that is distinctly American. Rising from the Deep South during the Great Depression, this new form of music, the predecessor to rock and roll really cut its teeth in Chicago and Memphis. From there it has gone on to become a worldwide sensation and the inspiration of countless acts, from the Allman Brothers, to Eric Clapton to Led Zeppelin.

And at some point, all of those blues records made their way to Australia where a few decades ago they were picked up and spun by Geoff Achison, who then formed a deep appreciation for this music. He began listening to it and playing it as often as he could, and that love for the music has brought him around the world and now to Atlanta where he makes his home when he's not out on the road.

Achison will bring his unique brand of blues-funk fusion to Buford's 37 Main club this Friday night as one of several shows in the area before he embarks on a tour around the South and the eastern seaboard.

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Fulton OKs $857M schools' budget

Teachers will get a raise, and taxpayers will get some relief with the $857 million budget approved by the Fulton County Board of Education for the 2008-09 school year. The board passed a tentative budget during its May board meeting, with the final adoption expected June 12.

School system staff will receive a 2.5 percent salary increase beginning July 1, along with a step increase of nearly 3 percent for eligible employees. The budget also includes a half position for every school to be used in any way the school deems necessary, such as curriculum support or with continuous achievement efforts.

This additional position was important to School Superintendent Cindy Loe who lobbied to add the funding to next year's budget.

"As superintendent, it's important that we adequately fund programs and initiatives that positively impact student achievement," said Loe, who took over as superintendent just last month. "I believe this budget does just that. It puts students' needs as the focus while providing support to our staff members to effectively do their jobs."

The $63 million increase over the 2007-2008 budget reflects rising enrollment in Fulton schools, continued austerity cuts from the state and other factors that made the FY09 budgeting process challenging, said school officials.An additional 2,500 students are expected to enroll for 2008-2009, bringing its total population to over 88,000 students.

- For additional information click here.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PHOTO GALLERY: Joe Cocker at the Verizon Amphitheatre in Alpharetta

Joe Cocker, May 26, 2008, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. Photos by Clark Savage/Clayton CameraCraft
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Artist: Miz Alex
Song: I'm Cool

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Now Playing with Scott Sowers: Among the Cules, drinking it all in

It really is a shame that MLS has largely ignored the South in its recent wave of expansion.

Atlanta would be a wonderful contender for a new team, thus giving us in the area a chance to watch (fairly) big-time soccer on a weekly basis. The Silverbacks are fun, but we need more.

To experience soccer in a big-time atmosphere in one of the grand stadiums of Europe (or South America) is something that any sports fan must take-in at some point in their life. To wit, there is just nothing close to match the intensity during even the most mundane of matchups. Only college football can come close to the pageantry and passion.

I've long been a supporter of FC Barcelona, one of the two most successful clubs in Spain's La Liga, considered by many to be one of the best leagues in the world alongside the English Premier League and Italy's Serie A.

But despite the time I've spent in Spain and back here in the states watching virtually every game on TV or my computer, I'd yet to really experience a Barca game. To sit among the Cules (the nickname for the fans, which literally means "rear end" in Catalan, the dialect of Spanish spoken in the city) had been a dream of mine for years, and thankfully I had to chance to act it out a few weeks ago during Barca's final home match of the season against Mallorca, a rather decent Spanish side.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Milton holds its first Memorial Day celebration

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PHOTO GALLERY: Roswell Memorial Day service

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Suwanee Fountain to make a splash

The Big Splash Fountain, Gwinnett County's largest interactive fountain at Town Center Park in Suwanee made its first splash in 2008 May 21.

Beginning May 21, the fountain hours will be daily from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Hours of operation will be reduced to meet the state's goal to reduce water usage by 10 percent.

The fountain opened in June 2006 and has not been in operation since fall 2007 due to the extreme drought conditions in North Georgia, but according to Suwanee city officials, the fountain will run throughout the summer as long as drought conditions do not worsen and the state and the county continue to permit it.

The fountain recycles most of the water, but some water is lost due to evaporation and carry off.


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Milton artist thinks big

On a farm off Thompson Road in Milton, where horses CJ and Elfin lounge and 'coon hounds Nico and Bowie play, a pretty amazing thing happens daily.

A world-famous artist, Deanna Sirlin, redefines the centuries old relationship between art and viewer.

"I don't think you can just hang a painting on a wall anymore," she said.

It's certainly a bold statement, but one she backs up. Sirlin, a 17-year resident, is perhaps best known for her pivotal installation "Retracings," which encompassed virtually the entire glass front of the High Museum of Art in 1999. The work was a bold statement of her vision -- large scale installations that bathe the viewer in rich color and texture.

She achieves the effect by painting or sketching her famous swirls and circles, then digitally magnifying the image to 30 to 50 times its original size.

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Roswell rowers sign athletic scholarships

Three varsity women rowers and one coxswain from the Atlanta Junior Rowing Association have signed scholarships with different universities to row in college this fall.

Sara Kavoosifar, coxswain from Northview High School, has signed with Indiana University. Christina Kapusta of Roswell High School has signed with Stetson University in Florida. Alyssa Egan of Roswell High School has signed with the University of Central Florida. Anna Almquist of The Lovett School has signed with Indiana University.

Coaches for the Atlanta Junior Rowing Association are Julie McQueen and Bryce Carlson.


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Wilson Creek principal named best in district

Jimmy Zoll, principal of Wilson Creek Elementary School in Johns Creek, was chosen as the Georgia Distinguished Principal from District 5 of the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals.

Zoll was nominated and selected by his fellow principals in District 5 through a district search process, said Hal Beaver Executive Director of GAESP.

One principal from all 10 districts may be chosen by their peers to represent their district at the state level.

Criteria for selection indicate that the applicants must be active principals of elementary schools in which a commitment to excellence is clearly evident. They must have been principals for five years and must also plan to continue in that position during their year of recognition.

The principals selected must have demonstrated strong leadership to teachers, students, the school community, and the profession at large, exhibiting examples of service and achievement above and beyond the usual expectations for a school administrator.


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Friday, May 23, 2008

PHOTO GALLERY: Cumming Memorial Day Ceremonies

The Cumming Memorial Day Ceremonies were held May 23 at the Veterans War Memorial. Photos by Logan Thomas
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Thursday, May 22, 2008

PHOTO GALLERY: Autrey Mill celebrates spring in Johns Creek

Autrey Mill Nature Preserve hosted its spring celebration on May 17. Photos by Jennifer Brock
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Joe Cocker: Still rockin' after all these years

ALPHARETTA - Joe Cocker is a man of many parts -- bluesy soul rocker from Sheffield, England, one of the leaders of the British music invasion of the '60s, Woodstock icon and maker of comebacks in every decade since. But more than that he is a survivor.

He was the hardest living rock 'n' roll star in the era of hard living rock 'n' roll stars. He sang in his first band in 1961, covering blues and soul singers including the influential Ray Charles. By the mid-60s, Cocker was touring with such seminal rock bands as the Hollies and the Rolling Stones.

In 1968 he was in the studio to cut the record that put him on the map, "With a Little Help From My Friends," with musicians Jimmy Page and Steve Winwood. A year later he was at Woodstock. The '70s were just a blur of drugs and alcohol for Cocker, yet he kept working and kept recording with such hits as "The Letter," "Cry Me a River" and "You Are So Beautiful."

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PHOTO GALLERY: Flags over Johns Creek

The City of Johns Creek is encouraging residents and business owners to show their patriotism by displaying an American flag starting on Flag Day, June 14 and continuing through July 4. The initiative, called "Flags Over Johns Creek," is designed to encourage patriotism, inspire citizens to think about the meaning of the American flag, and serve as a symbol of support for troops abroad, said Councilmember Liz Hausmann, who suggested the program. Photos by Jennifer Brock
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PHOTO GALLERY: U.S. flag from Iraq delivered to Chattahoochee ES

The United States flag was delivered via helicopter May 20 to Chattahoochee Elementary School by the U.S. Army led by Lt. Col. Andy Hall. The flag raised had previously flown with U.S. forces in Iraq. Photos by Logan Thomas.
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Monday, May 19, 2008

Trench collapses in Milton, traps worker

DEVELOPING STORY: A trench has collapsed in the Hampshires subdivision in Milton trapping a construction worker in waist-deep dirt. The collapse occurred around 1:30pm. Fire departments from Atlanta, Forsyth County, Alpharetta and Milton are on-scene along with Rural Metro ambulance and Rescue Air, if case he needs to be airlifted.
Due to additional dirt surrounding him, rescue workers cannot just dig him out. A two hour extraction process is expected with the use of a vacuum truck.


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NOW PLAYING with Scott Sowers: What year is this? 1998? 1978?

I'm always one who likes to fancy myself on the cutting edge of the latest in music be it trends, albums or the best places to…ahem…obtain music. I'm the guy my friends go to for new obscure artists they've never heard of that have just been discovered and are on the cusp of stardom.

But as I was looking at a few lists of concerts this summer, one thing really stuck out at me: what year are we living in musically? I know it's 2008, but it seems like we almost could be in 1998 or 1978 and still experiencing the same music.
Take, for example, one of the hottest songs on the radio right now, Madonna's "4 Minutes." When was Madonna last relevant in music? Yeah, she's had a couple of hits here and there but really the last time she was truly making waves was when she released her "Ray of Light" album in early '98.

Then, you have one of the surprise great albums of the year coming from Athens' own R.E.M. with the recent release of their rocking "Accelerate." This band has sort of fallen off the musical landscape, but this has become their comeback album – one that sees them finding an alternative rock sound they helped pioneer in the 80s. This might be considered the second comeback album of their career, when they entered the slow rock phase of their career with '98's "Up."

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

PHOTO GALLERY: The Eagles at Alpharetta's VZWAMP at Encore Park

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Eagles hit stage for first night at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta

ALPHARETTA -- Anxious crowds from across the southeast packed the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore park to see the venue's first rock concert featuring one of the biggest selling acts of all time, The Eagles.

The Eagles kicked off their first of a sold-out, four show stand in Alpharetta in low-key fashion, taking the venue's huge stage in matching suits. There was no opening band, no hype -- Glen Frey, Don Henley, Timothy Schmit and Joe Walsh just took the stage and launched into a mix of hits from their 2007 record "Long Road Out of Eden" and their previous classic albums.

Though it was only the venue's first rock show, it was pulled off without a hitch, with friendly staff directing newcomers through the amphitheatre. Add ample parking, quick shuttle service, good food and more than adequate traffic direction and emergency services by the Alpharetta Public Safety Department, and its easy to see why so many people had smiles on their faces the whole night.

The sound and atmosphere of the venue was simply incredible, and everyone in attendance grooved through the night in the cool May breeze.


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Forsyth County woman aiming for Olympics

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. -- Some train most of their lives for a slim chance of competing for Olympic gold.

Amanda Hubbard, now 26, didn't know she would have the chance to represent the United States in Beijing when she started lifted weights five years ago. In fact, it wasn't even in her wildest dreams.

Those dreams might now come true. The North Forsyth High School graduate will compete against the country's best weightlifters May 16 and 17 during the 2008 Olympic Weightlifting Trials at the Ferst Center for the Arts on the Georgia Tech campus.

"It is honestly, truly amazing," said Hubbard during a telephone interview while training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado under resident coach Bob Morris. "Words can't describe it. It's as if every dream of mine I've ever had could come true. Now that it's here at my fingertips, it's very surreal."

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Dawson EMTs hailed as heroes

FORSYTH COUNTY -- It seemed like business as usual for Dawson County firefighters and emergency medical technicians Andy Scott and Frankie Everhart the evening of April 9. But business as usual in the world of EMTs means that night they helped save a little girl's life.

The EMTs were going home to Dawson County after dropping off a patient at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, traveling Ga. 53 through the tip of Forsyth County. Then they came upon a fiery two-car accident just seconds after it happened.

"We just happened to be at the right place at the right time," said Scott. "We got there and people were telling us that the children in the car were on fire."

Immediately the men ran to the scene of the accident. There they found Harry R. Spitz, a 47-year-old Gainesville father who had been driving his two daughters home when they were rear-ended by another driver, Elezar Alvarez, 21, of Gainesville.

The Spitz family's Geo Tracker burst into flames upon impact. Heroically Spitz pulled both his daughters, 5 and 8, from the car. While he and his oldest suffered only minor burns, the 5-year-old suffered severe burns over 40 percent of her body.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Authorities search for missing man in Forsyth

The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office is searching for a 31-year-old man who has been missing since he left his Tatum Woods home May 2. A subsequent search for the missing man, Michael B. Benson, in Cherokee County turned up a truck he was test driving. In the truck were his clothes and wallet.

Foul play is suspected in the disappearance, said Karleen Chalker, a spokeswoman with the Sheriff's Office. As such, authorities are asking anyone who might have seen Benson, in north Forsyth or Cherokee County May 2 or 3 for help.

"We need any information we can get," she said. "We need to know if anyone saw any suspicious activity."

Sheriff Ted Paxton said Benson left his home on Country Walk Court around 8 a.m. May 2 in a 2000 Black Toyota Tundra truck that he was test-driving. Also in the truck was its owner, whom authorities said is currently being questioned.

After leaving his home, Benson spoke to several people, including his father and employees, by phone and was scheduled to arrive at a job site in Cherokee County later that morning. Benson never arrived, Sheriff Paxton said.

Benson's fiancee reported him missing to Forsyth County authorities the next morning. On Saturday afternoon, the truck Benson had been driving was found in a remote area off of Hog Farm Circle in Cherokee County. According to a report of the incident, Benson's clothes and wallet were found in the truck.

Chalker would not comment on whether the clothes had any blood or other physical evidence on them.

Areas surrounding Hog Farm Circle in Cherokee County have been searched using canines, but no further trace of Benson has been found. The Forsyth and Cherokee County Sheriff's Offices are working in conjunction to locate Benson.

According to the incident report, Benson suffers from epilepsy brought on by stress. His father said he has not had problems with it recently, though.

Anyone who may have any information regarding the disappearance of Benson should contact the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division at 770-781-2200 or the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 770-888-7308, where your call may remain confidential.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Media tour of the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

The Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park was officially unveiled to Atlanta-area media May 8. Tours were given that showed the ins-and-outs of Alpharetta’s newest concert venue, scheduled to open May 10 with a performance by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. That will be followed by the first ever rock show at the venue, The Eagles playing four nights starting May 14.
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Rogers Bridge Greenway bid approved in Duluth

Plans are moving closer to fruition for a proposed greenway along the Chattahoochee River in Duluth. City Council unanimously approved a bid April 28 by Pond & Company for $39,250.

This bid was selected tops by council over two other bids after it was determined the quality job the company would do, coupled with a lower cost made it the ideal selection. Council had immediately ruled out Moreland Altobelli Associates' $27,470 bid.

When it came down to it, council could not find enough of a difference – other than cost – between the winning bid and HDR Engineering's $59,000 bid.

"Being familiar with both companies I can tell that each would do an excellent job, but I can't tell what they were doing to result in a big difference in fees," said Councilmember Marsha Anderson Bomar.

Bomar said that although she approved awarding the bid to Pond & Company, she did not like the process of selecting the winning bid.

"The process used wasn't a quality based selection," she said. "I want our staff to get more training in that because it will benefit the citizens most."

This trail will be a compacted surface accessible to those with disabilities that runs alongside the Chattahoochee River around the Rogers Bridge Park. Parks and Recreation director Kathy Marelle said that the eventual plan is for this trail to run from Scott Hudgens Park and connect all the way to Suwanee.

"We are very excited about this," she said. "It's been a long time coming and will be such a nice amenity for Duluth."

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PHOTO GALLERY: May Magic in Milton

Hold Your Horses, a Birmingham Highway tack store specializing in all-natural and adapted riding tack and horse feed, held an event May 4 called May Magic to benefit Driving Magic Inc. Driving Magic is a Duluth-based non-profit organization that provides therapeutic carriage driving and horsemanship program for adults and children with disabilities. It is the only such carriage riding program in Georgia. Yellow Rose Carriages offered rides in the Village at Birmingham Market shopping center, where the business is located. There was also plenty of activities for the kids, including horseshoe painting and games.
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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Skid Row coming to Wild Bill's in Duluth

DULUTH - Wild Bill's is Atlanta Best Country Bar/Music Club, but Marketing Director Tom Siliven says that Wild Bill's is much more. According to Siliven, Wild Bill's is not just America's Largest Country Dance Club, it is also a Concert Hall catering to all different music genres, as well as hosting comedy acts, sports fights, wrestling and more. The venue even hosts charitable events, and Friday, May 9, it hosts the kick-off party for the American Diabetes Association's Ride to Live, where rock bands Skid Row, Rockets to Ruin and The Luchagors perform.

The event features full sets by Skid Row and Rockets to Ruin, a VIP Party for Ride to Live top donors, a sign up sheet for the Ride and a "pass the bucket" fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. Though Wild Bill's has hosted almost every major country music star, the venue is no stranger to rock acts. Styx and Kansas both played there recently, but perhaps Skid Row is an even better fit for the club best known for its country concerts. Skid Row's latest rock album, Revolutions Per Minute, features two arguably country-inspired songs—"You Lie" and "White Trash"—and Carrie Underwood, American Idol's favorite country star, covered Skid Row's smash hit ballad "I Remember You" live.

With Atlanta's Rockets to Ruin (two members of Skid Row reside in Atlanta as well) bumping up the rock quotient for the evening, May 9 promises to be an exciting diversion from Wild Bill's (previously) typical night. Prices for the event range from $14 in advance, $20 at the door for general admission tickets to $25 to $100 for VIP reserved seating. Doors open at 7 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m., and Skid Row hits the stage at 11 p.m. For more information call 678-473-1000, or visit To order tickets, visit

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PHOTO GALLERY: Indian Festival & Rendezvous in Cumming

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100 join massive spin class in Suwanee

SUWANEE - The events started around 5:30 p.m. at Town Center Park for Party in de Park April 24 where more than 100 people participated in the world's largest spin class sponsored by Bodyplex Fitness Adventure.

Jason Vance, manager of the facility, said it was a challenge to get enough bicycles for the outdoor class.

"A hundred was a number I could get if I pulled from three Gwinnett clubs, which would have been a natural disaster to get them out of the clubs and out here without them getting broken," said Vance. "We asked and they (Star Trac) came up with more or less donating these bikes and saved us an enormous amount of pain."

Vance said some of the Bodyplex franchises in other areas are purchasing a vast majority of the bikes used for the event.

Surprisingly, they had no trouble finding participants. Registration filled up about a week prior to the event.

Vance said after seeing a class he hopes that spectators get a better understanding of what a spin class is all about.

"One of the things that makes a class so great and really work for everybody regardless of fitness level, is that if I'm the instructor and I yell at you to add more tension and you don't, who knows," said Vance. "So the rider can make it as difficult as you want it to be.

All the proceeds from the spin class went to benefit Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG Foundation.


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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Free asthma screening on May 10

May is "National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month," the peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, and a perfect time to educate patients, family, friends, co-workers, and others about these diseases.

To help Atlantans breathe easier, the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic, in conjunction with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), will provide free asthma screenings to the public.

The screenings will be conducted by the Clinic's physicians and staff, and will take place at Perimeter Mall, 4400 Ashford Dunwoody Road on May 10 from noon until 4 p.m. in the lower level food court area.


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Meeting to discuss Eva Kennedy Road improvements in Suwanee

City of Suwanee officials will discuss improvements to Eva Kennedy Road at a public meeting Thursday, May 8 from 4-7 p.m. at Suwanee Crossroads Center, 323 Buford Highway.

The improvements along Eva Kennedy from Stonecypher Road close to the Brushy Creek subdivision will include adding curbs and gutters, replacing the sidewalk on the south side of the roadway and installing three oval landscaped islands to help reduce speeds along the road.

The project has not been scheduled but is expected to take place before the end of the year after the completion of acquisition of right-of-way easements.


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PHOTO GALLERY: Georgia Force vs. New Orleans Voodoo

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May 8 Public information meeting in Suwanee

The city of Suwanee will hold a public information meeting 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 8 at Suwanee Crossroads Center, 323 Buford Highway.

The meeting is an open house to inform Suwanee residents about an upcoming improvement project for Eva Kennedy Road.

The improvements along Eva Kennedy from Stonecypher Road close to the Brushy Creek subdivision will include adding curbs and gutters, replacing the sidewalk on the south side of the roadway, and installing three oval landscaped islands to help reduce speeds along the road.

The project has not been scheduled but is expected to take place before the end of the year after the completion of acquisition of right-of-way easements.


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Jazz dinner served by student musicians in Forsyth

The sounds of jazz music and the smells of good food will flow from Forsyth Central High School this Saturday evening.

Members of the school's Jazz Band will perform for diners at a Jazz Dinner fundraiser at the school cafeteria at 7 p.m. In addition, special guest musicians are Director John Mashburn, Tom Tucker, Vincent Cardoso and Daniel Arocho.

Dinner will include chicken Parmesan, baked ziti, salad, bread, dessert and drinks. Tickets are $25 each, and doors open at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, call 678-557-5343 or


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PHOTO GALLERY: 2008 Roswell Criterium

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NOW PLAYING: Mourning the death of 'The Simpsons'

It's time to pull the sheet over an American institution, one that claims to feature everyone's favorite animated family.

Folks, I hate to say it, but I think "The Simpsons" is dead. Long my favorite show while growing up, the continuation of this show into its 19th season has really tarnished its image.

I came to this realization Sunday night watching the latest episode, "Any Given Sundance," where Lisa has made a documentary depicting the everyday life of her family. This is only the second or third new episode I've seen this season, which is sad considering how much I used to adore this show. It's simply no longer important to me to catch a new one because it will undoubtedly let me down.

It's really hard to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with the series now, but if you've watched it from the beginning, you know that the jokes just don't pack the punch these days. But one thing for sure is that what the early show was known for was its satire and biting social commentary, these days a lot of the jokes come from the lowest common denominator.

Click here to read the rest of the column.

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Recycling now offered at Forsyth events

Keep Forsyth County Beautiful will now have the ability to provide recycling opportunities at local events such as concerts, sports and festivals.

Through an Away from Home Recycling Grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the county received equipment to implement the program.

The grant package consists of a trailer with 100 recycling containers stored on five, easy-to-assemble carts. Each cart contains a promotional recycling message and can be pushed manually from location to location or hitched to the back of a motorized cart.

In addition to the carts, the county received a recycling trailer that has "check-out" forms, a special event recycling instruction manual, volunteer training and safety information, and a recycling collection reporting sheet. Specific recycling and promotional information are also included with the county's trailer.

"We are so excited about having this great opportunity to promote recycling at special events throughout the community," Environmental Programs Manager Tammy Wright said.

The Away From Home Recycling Program was established to help local communities promote recycling at special events and approximately $350,000 from Georgia's Solid Waste Trust Fund (SWTF) is being used statewide to implement this initiative.

To receive more information on participating in Forsyth's program, contact Keep Forsyth County Beautiful at 770-205-4573.


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Lanier Tech brings home awards from SkillsUSA competition

Students from Lanier Tech fared well in the recent SkillsUSA State Conference competition held last month in Dublin at the Heart of Georgia Technical College.

There were over 400 students from 26 Technical Colleges competing in 68 different skills competitions. Lanier Tech entered 18 students in 12 contests and won first place in three competitions and second place in three.

First Places winners from Lanier Tech were: Christy Grissom, Customer Service; Tim Hudek, Architectural Drafting; Daniel Blackstone, Automotive Service Technology.

Second Places winners were: Grant Myland, Firefighting; Raul Mar, Technical Drafting.

In addition, Sheila Carter, Tavan Goodin, Theresa Puckett and Gretchen Willard participated in the Quiz Bowl.


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Monday, May 5, 2008

Is Forsyth SPLOST lost?

A sales tax approved by nearly 70 percent of local voters Feb. 5 is now in question following a recent court decision preventing the county from collecting the funds.

Superior Court Judge Hugh W. Stone's April 30 decision could affect numerous county projects and the collection of the sales tax scheduled to begin July 1. Stone ruled the county should have listed every project on the ballot.

Cumming had identified $50 million in projects it wanted to accomplish through the SPLOST. But the county had allotted the city 4.29 percent of the sales tax revenue (about $11.8 million). That figure is the per capita share of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) based on the 2000 Census.

Forsyth County Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said he believed the ruling was an "error."

"I believe the judges ruling is in error," he said, "but the Board of Commissioners will abide by the decision until the Board can determine an appropriate course of action."

The county has not appealed the April 30 decision. If such a decision is made, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said it could happen as early as this week.

The ruling was a victory for those in the city of Cumming campaigning against the passing of the SPLOST. Mayor Ford Gravitt said it's also a victory for both the people of Cumming and Forsyth County.

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Amphitheatre in Alpharetta opens May 10

After spending years working on community support and searching for an operator to build an amphitheater in North Fulton, Mike Nixon can't wait for the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park to open.

Nixon, who headed the committee tasked with realizing the dream of the late Bob Fulton, former Fulton County Commissioner, and others, said there will be nothing like it in all of North Metro Atlanta.

"It's pretty great, a phenomenal thing for the North Fulton area," he said. "It exceeded our hopes and expectations."

Nixon said the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Woodruff Arts Foundation and its contractors have done a great job on the amphitheater.

"People should be real proud of their first real significant arts venue," he said.

Brandon Beach, president of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and a fellow member of that committee, said the amphitheatre is going to bring the community together.

"First off, it's an amenity that is just great for the citizens of North Fulton. From the business standpoint, it's a great economic development tool," he said.

The view from the ASO's side is just as bright.

Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park began as a dream by the community and for the community, something that Don Fox, chief financial officer for the ASO, said remains part of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's goals.

He said a relationship exists between the community and the amphitheater, and the community and the ASO.

When the late Commissioner Bob Fulton and others embarked down this path, imagining a performing arts facility, it was with the community in mind, he said.

The North Fulton resident said an unbelievable amount of hard work took place over the past 18 months to get the venue ready for performances, with dedication shown by workers ranging from architects to project managers.

The caliber of acts booked at the amphitheater shows a tremendous amount of excitement in the artists' community for the venue, Fox said.

"In fact, the Eagles opening their world tour here, certainly makes a statement about the kind of building we have created," Fox said.

At concert time, the work continues by the community, he said. Alpharetta, the Ga. Department of Transportation and ASO staff have been proactive in developing a comprehensive traffic management plan. He singled out Alpharetta Master Police Officer Rob Wessell, who is in charge of arranging police coverage and traffic routing.

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No magic for VooDoo against Georgia Force

DULUTH – The South is known for its hospitality, but so far this season the Georgia Force (4-5) haven't felt at home in their Southern Division, which they went a perfect 6-0 in last season.

The Force finally got their first division win of the season in four tries Saturday, with a 66-39 victory over the visiting New Orleans VooDoo (7-3).

Georgia's two-game losing skid was halted, while at the same time putting an end to New Orleans' win streak of the same amount.

The story the past few weeks with the Force has been their inability to put points on the board to start the game. Last week they found themselves in a 14-point hole right off the bat at Arizona, and it was the same tune the week before to Orlando.

But not this time.

A Matt Huebner 2-yard run on the first drive of the game got the offense rolling for the Force, and they never looked back.

On the VooDoo's first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive QB Danny Wimprine was sacked by R-Kal Truluck, causing him to fumble the ball on the 4-yard line. Force receiver Damien Groce ran it into the big blue expanse on the next play, and the rout was on.

Force coach Doug Plank said this was as close to must win as a game could be.

"I feel like we've squandered the first half of the season," he said. "It's been difficult from a coaching perspective, but this certainly was a great win."

He said that his team had been one of the biggest disappointments in the AFL this season, and that it was good to get some momentum going right out of the gate.

After missing three games earlier in the season, as well as last week's contest in Arizona, standout receiver Troy Bergeron has slowly been integrating himself back into the receiving corps that he led last year. He emphatically announced that he was back, slamming the ball onto the field after catching a 15-yard touchdown pass from Chris Greisen midway through the first quarter.

An explosive 43-yard touchdown in the third quarter where he completely outran the nearest defender put his team ahead 52-32 with the extra point and showed he was ready to play like he had been a season ago. Bergeron scored on a short pass early in the fourth after a VooDoo onsides kick attempt was given to the Force after it was ruled illegally touched by the kicking team.

The man with 41 touchdowns last year added a 32-yard score from Greisen moments before going into the locker room for halftime.

For his 4 touchdown 9 catch 137 yard effort, Bergeron was named Offensive Player of the Game. Plank said that Bergeron did this after only participating in the 30-minute practice on Friday without practicing the rest of the week.

Sensational Force rookie Tiger Jones also had a strong game, with a 7 catch, 72 yard performance 1 touchdown performance of his own.

It was a night where the Force really got their running game going, with a couple touchdowns scored, including a 7-yard Greisen scamper late in the fourth to put his team ahead 65-39 after the Carlos Martinez PAT. Greisen also ran the ball for a first down on fourth down during the team's first drive of the game.

The VooDoo got an offensive boost by a late addition to their squad, receiver Sale Key was activated from injured reserve at midnight the night before the game, and he showed his gratitude by giving his team 7 catches, 70 yards and 2 scores while his teammate DeAndrew Rubin hauled in 7 catches for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns.

A team that had based their success on their impressive plus-19 turnover margin coming into the game – a league best, the VooDoo had trouble keeping the ball, turning it over three times in the game with the fumble, two interceptions and another fumble that was overruled by a Force defensive penalty. The Force, on the other hand, did not turn it over once.

Wimprine did not have much time to get comfortable in the pocket, seemingly always on the run or on the ground thanks to a fierce Force pass rush.

"Tonight we played a lot more man coverage because our personnel are more capable of playing that," Plank said. "We didn't give up the easy short passes and instead forced the quarterback to look down the field more. With our injury situation now you can probably look for us to play more of it in the future."

He finished the night with 297 yards on 22-44 passing with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions while his counterpart Greisen put up 290 yards on 23-31 passing with 6 touchdowns.

This victory will give the Force some momentum heading into their toughest contest of the year so far, with a Monday night game looming with the league leading Philadelphia Soul (9-1) May 12 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. with a national broadcast on ESPN2.


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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sheila Elliott to run for Forsyth 4th District BOE

Sheila Elliott, a Democrat from Forsyth County, has announced her candidacy for Forsyth County Board of Education in the 4th District. Elliott, a native of Chicago, has two children in the Forsyth County public education system.

"Over the past few years, our school board has made decisions affecting all of us, but without seeking input from the general public. From abruptly changing the school hours to implementing a new grading system to the current redistricting process, our elected school board members have shown they have forgotten who they work for – the parents and taxpayers of Forsyth County." Elliott continued, " And it is time we changed this. As your school board representative, I promise to be a voice for parents in Forsyth County."

She said the board should have more accountability to the community.

"It seems as though over the past few years, the board has lost it's connection to the people [parents/guardians] of this district. We can't have that," Elliott said. "We need parents on this school board with kids who are actively attending Forsyth County Schools, parents who have the same vested interest(s) as the community. Only then can the severed lines of communication and trust begin to be restored."

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Woman dies in head-on collision in Milton

A 53-year-old woman died April 29 on Hopewell Road after she hit another motorist head-on while driving on the wrong side of the road.

According to Lt. Shawn McCarty, a spokesman for the Milton Department of Public Safety, Carol Roberts, 53, of Milton was driving south in the northbound lane on Hopewell road shortly before 11 a.m. when she hit a 19-year-old driving the right way.

Her 1998 Volvo smashed into the front of his 2003 Acura, sending him to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Roberts was pronounced dead on scene.

Public Safety Director Chris Lagerbloom said since the deceased was at fault, there will be no charges.

Milton police are investigating the crash, however, to determine why Roberts was driving on the wrong side of the road.

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Coping with the fuel crunch in Milton

Gasoline is at an all-time high and the pumps show no sign of letting up. The Sunday drive is a thing of the past, and many people are recasting vacation plans -- some have even discovered they will save money by flying rather than driving.

So the price of gasoline is affecting everyone's pocketbook and their driving habits. But what can families really do to economize on the amount of gasoline they must buy?

Here are a few tips that could put folding money back in your pocket:

Make your fill-ups count
Use regular gas if directed. If your engine was designed for regular gas (look in the owner's manual if you're not sure), and most cars are, then you gain nothing by putting premium gas in the car. Unless your engine is knocking, it does nothing for your engine's performance. Use only regular if that is what's called for and you save 40 cents a gallon off the top.

Fill up in the morning. Gasoline is quite volatile, which means not only does it evaporate quickly, it is sensitive to temperature. The warmer it gets, the more it expands just as a gas would. In the morning it is cooler, thus denser. Gas is sold by volume, not weight. So buy it when it is heaviest and save.

Don't pump the gas at full throttle. Again, pumping the gas slowly delivers the gasoline in a more dense state. Haste makes waste.

Avoid snake oil salesmen. There are lot of gadgets and additives people will sell you to increase fuel efficiency, but the great majority of them do nothing. Many actually harm the engine or reduce efficiency.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Run for a Reason 5K in Cumming

Justin Lance won a very important race April 27. It wasn’t important to him, but to Hannah Shaver, a 7-year-old diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. Hannah was diagnosed March 18, 2005. Runners turned out for the “Run for a Reason,” a 5K road race/walk to benefit Hannah. For full race results and more information, visit Photos by Peyton Harris
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PHOTO GALLERY: Operation One Voice receives bike donation in Duluth

Operation One Voice receives a donation of 11 bicycles at Cycle Works in Duluth April 29. These bikes will go to wounded special forces soldiers who will use them on their road to recovery. Duluth Police Lt. Bill Stevens took four bikes to Ft. Bragg in North Carolina, while the other seven will be shipped to troops in Washington. The $12,000 to purchase the bikes was donated by Duluth’s Cognex Corporation. Photos by Scott Sowers

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