Thursday, September 3, 2009

Citizen's Police Academy looking for participants in Roswell

ROSWELL - The Roswell Police Department is currently accepting applications for the 20th class of the Roswell Citizen's Police Academy, beginning Sept. 8. Class will be held each Tuesday for nine weeks from 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. at the Roswell Law Enforcement Center, 39 Hill Street.

The academy participants will receive first-hand knowledge of police operations through classroom lectures, ride-alongs with officers, and touring the Communications Center and Detention Center operations. Once the course is completed, students will receive a mounted diploma and participate in a graduation reception held at Roswell City Hall Nov. 12.

Applications are available at the front desk of the Roswell Police Department Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Applicants must be 21 years or older, pass a background check, be a Roswell resident, Roswell business owner or Roswell city employee to participate. You can also find information and the application on, under the police department or contact Lawanda Kornegay at 770-640-4455.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Man convicted for pimping teenage cousin

Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. announces the conviction by jury trial of 26-year old Zaccheus Obie of Atlanta. Obie was convicted this afternoon of one count of felony pimping for prostituting his 16-year-old cousin.

The victim was picked up by police in May of 2008 on Metropolitan Parkway, an area known for prostitution. According to testimony, Obie sent the victim out on three separate occasions to solicit "dates". In preparation, he bought clothes for the young girl, paid to have her hair done and later pocketed all of the money she received. Obie was arrested in January for this case but investigators believe he has been operating as a pimp for at least four years. One of his previous girlfriends testified at trial that she prostituted for Obie as well. Jurors deliberated for 3 ½ hours over two days before returning with a verdict of guilty. Obie, who has other pending charges, will be sentenced at a later date. He is subject to a minimum five year sentence.

Obie's conviction comes in the wake of recent public discussions before the State Legislature regarding the decriminalization of prostitution-- as concerned clergy and citizen groups urge lawmakers to recognize the young girls as victims rather than criminals.

Senior Fulton County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Manis presided over the case. It was prosecuted by Senior Assistant ADA Kate Thornton with assistance from ADA Lee Young Williams and DA Investigator Crispin Henry. APD Officer J. Hoos led the initial investigation.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Roswell's nonprofit arts industry adds fuel to economy

Roswell – Everyone knows the arts in Roswell raises the city's cultural I.Q., but a recent economic impact study released shows the arts also puts $13.6 million into the city's economy.

Nationally, the arts economic contributions are an astonishing $166 billion in economic activity, up 24 percent in the last five years according to the Americans for the Arts, national organization supporting the arts and culture through private and public resource development,

Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts is vice president of Local Arts Advancement and a consultant to local arts communities including Roswell.

"The nonprofit arts industry goes beyond its ability to entertain, inspire and improve the quality of life. What our study has shown that beyond fostering beauty, creativity and originality in the community there are huge economic impacts as well," said Cohen. "These economic impacts are a conservative estimate based on a survey developed by professors at Georgia Tech."

The Tech survey devised a means of calculating the value of $1 spent by the arts industry as it rippled through the community. Also it determined that each arts customer spent an average of $15.71, not counting the ticket, on food, lodging or shopping in the city.

Some 31 non-profit arts organizations in Roswell were sent a survey, and the economic impacts are based solely on the 24 that responded.

"The numbers are a real myth-buster," said Cohen. "We interviewed 981 customers and charted their ZIP codes, and we found 31 percent of attendees came from outside Fulton County. Investing in the arts makes sense. It is a vibrant industry for Roswell."

The results showed the arts organizations spent about $7.8 million in the community and audiences contributed another $5.8 million.

In addition, arts events such as the Colors of Roswell, The Magnolia Storytelling Festival, the Georgia Ensemble Theatre, The Michael O'Neal Singers, Rosewater Theatre and the Roswell Cultural Arts Center among others combined to bring 117,585 non-residents to the city where they spent an average of $20.54 each. The 260,502 residents who attended arts events spent an average of $13.03 each according to the study.

The arts also created 418 full-time equivalent jobs in Roswell.

"The arts often pay out locally and hire locally," Cohen said. "So the money spent by the arts tends to circulate in the community longer."

One of the many intangibles a strong culturally vibrant community does is attract new residents and employers to relocate. That protects local property values as seen in local assessments. Roswell has not been as hard hit by property devaluation as in other metro areas.

"The goal of the study was to show that it is wise to invest in the arts, both culturally and economically," Cohen said. "There is still a lot of untapped headroom in the city."

Roswell Historic and Cultural Affairs Manager Morgan Timmis said one had only to look at the Canton Street community where arts and entertainment contribute to a healthy urban lifestyle with excellent property values.

Ultimately, the goal of the study is to show the value of the arts to the community.

"In its most idealistic terms, we hope the report will show the community and the powers that be the true value of arts and culture to the community and realize they are not just the icing on the cake," Timmis said. "It has genuine economic importance and deserves public support.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cumming man killed in head-on collision

FORSYTH COUNTY — A 39-year-old Cumming man is dead after slamming head-on into a large landscaping truck June 3 on Ga. 9 in southern Forsyth County.

Investigator Ron Tomblin of the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office said the deceased, Sean T. Strickland, was killed on impact when his 2004 Nissan Altima crossed the center line of Ga. 9 north near Castleberry Road and hit the landscaping truck, which was traveling south at about 2:02 p.m.

More on this story here.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Alpharetta plans budget cuts in 2010

ALPHARETTA – The recession continues to cut into government budgets.

Alpharetta, one of only two Georgia cities with a Triple A bond rating, still expects its revenues to drop by $1.4 million and has cut its budget for 2010.

"Our numbers show a 2009 year-to-date negative trend of about 11 percent from 2008 actuals," said Finance Director Tom Harris.

He said the city still expects revenues will exceed the budget by approximately $765,000. For 2010, the city is budgeting another 5 percent decline in revenue.

The 2010 fiscal year is from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010.

Harris presented the recommended budget, including $55.6 million in the General Fund, to City Council in early May. The General Fund includes property and sales taxes, but not special revenue funds such as the E-911 and Hotel/Motel Tax funds.

It also does not include the debt service fund, which is $11.5 million of the total budget. Bonds sold after voters approve them through referendums have to be repaid, and debt service – accounting for 1.535 of the 5.75 millage rate proposed – is how the city pays them back. A Triple A bond rating helps the city get lower interest rates when paying back its bonds.

However, no matter what the city sets as its budget, revisions are expected.

City Administrator Bob Regus said 7 percent of the 2008 digest is still in appeal. A lot more people made appeals on the 2009 tax digest, he said, and legislation signed into law requires neighborhood-wide retooling when even one home is reassessed.

"It's likely the digest will go down," Regus said. Mayor Arthur Letchas said that tax digest is a big concern.

"We probably won't get it until the end of May," Letchas said.

Regus agreed and said the city will know a lot more about its financial standings when those numbers come in.

For its 2009 budget, City Council had approved new operating initiatives that would have added a network analyst, GIS specialist and upgrading a part-time position to full time. But those were put on hold, taking $390,000 out of expenditures. Another $350,000 has been saved by not filling 7.5 non-public safety positions during the year.

The full budget presentation will first be made for City Council and the public at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 18 at City Hall.

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Forsyth County residents talk dog tethering

FORSYTH COUNTY - Local residents are divided on a proposed ordinance to provide restrictions on tethering animals outside.

Several residents voiced their opinions May 7 during a public hearing on the ordinance that could limit tethering to a maximum of three hours. County attorney Ken Jarrard said there were other definitions in the ordinance outlining sufficient shelter, food, water and space.

Forsyth County Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said the purpose of the public hearing was to gather information and no action would be taken by the board following the hearing.

"These comments will be taken under consideration," he said.

"We will look at the need for any revisions. The earliest this could be revisited would be June 1."

Jill Franklin, executive director of the Humane Society of Forsyth County, spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance and said funds would be available to help local residents purchase appropriate shelter for dogs rather than tethering.

Charlie Smith, who also spoke in favor of the ordinance, said 460 registered Forsyth County voters have signed their names in support of the ordinance.

"These are just a few of the people we ran into and asked," he said. "We're trying to prevent long term tethering without adequate water and food."

But Forsyth County resident and former commissioner David Richard said this proposed ordinance change was a "constitutional issue."

"When you take rights away from one person," he said, "that is against the Constitution. It's as simple as that. Do you believe in the Constitution? If you do, then this needs to be voted down."

Other residents said they believed the ordinance needed more study before it is adopted. Commissioner Patrick Bell agreed.

"It looks like it does need to be cleaned up," he said. "I think we need to study this before we make any hasty decisions."

More information on

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Milton High teen dead, two injured

An 18-year-old Milton High School senior is dead and his two friends, brothers who both attended MHS at one time, are in North Fulton Regional Hospital after an early morning crash May 12. Police say alcohol and excessive speed caused the accident.

Milton police said 18-year-old Adam Stephens, who was to graduate in a little less than two weeks, was pronounced dead at the scene on New Providence Road near its intersection with Dorris Road.

He was the passenger in a 1972 Chevrolet pickup traveling north on New Providence Road driven by 19-year-old Andrew London. London's 16-year-old younger brother, who police have not identified, was also in the truck.

London apparently lost control of the truck at about 2:37 a.m. allegedly due to excessive speed and alcohol, according to police. The truck flipped twice, ejecting both brothers, said Milton Police Lt. John Borsey.

Milton rescue personnel were on scene in two minutes and took both London brothers to North Fulton Regional Hospital. According to hospital staff, the younger brother is in critical condition. The elder London is in stable condition.

Borsey said May 13 the younger London is improving and hospital staff expect him to make a "full recovery."

He added the recovering older London faces several pending charges in the crash including vehicular homicide, DUI, failure to maintain lane, minor in possession of alcohol, open container, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and reckless driving, among others.

Milton High School Principal Ron Tesch said Stephens was a well-liked and popular student.

"This is an even deeper tragedy," said Tesch. "You never want to lose anybody, but when you are this close to graduation and you have a young man who is not going to be crossing that line with you, it really hits."

Tesch said Andrew London had graduated from the school last year, and his younger brother had withdrawn from the school in January to be home schooled.

Staff and students at Milton were given counselors to provide support in the tough situation, said Tesch.

"When you have a sudden death like this, there are a lot of kids who have a lot of pain and a lot of need," he said.

Tesch said the situation is devastating. The Class of 2009 has now had three deaths, he said. The other two were Parker Jackson, who died in November 2006, and Will Stough, who died in August 2006.

"It is hard to fill that void and suddenly realize that someone has been ripped away from the class and the school," said Tesch. "When a student dies, someone at the very edge of a life — this isn't supposed to happen."

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Shootout leaves four victims, one dead

DULUTH — Gwinnett County Police are investigating a May 11 drug-related quad shooting at Duluth house that has left one man dead and three more hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

The shooting happened shortly after 10 a.m. at a home on Buckingham Place, which is in a quiet neighborhood in unincorporated Duluth. There police found three Hispanic males with gunshot wounds. All are expected to survive their injuries and are in critical, but stable, condition at area hospitals, said police.

A fourth man found in the home, 26-year-old Fermin Aguirre-Garcia of Duluth, is being held at the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond. He has been charged with conspiracy to commit a violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act (VGSCA) and possession of cocaine.

The body of 34-year-old Howard Jones of Jacksonville, N.C., was found in a car in front of a store at Gwinnett Place Mall, said police. He was with 32-year-old Shawn Brumfield of Syracuse, N.Y., who was taken into custody at the mall. Police have not said whether Brumfield was a passenger or drove Jones there.

Brumfield is also being held in the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond. He was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit a VGCSA.

Police aren't explaining at this time the roles of Aguirre-Garcia or Brumfield in the incident.

Tina Myers, a stay-at-home mother who lives nearby with her six-year-old son, was home when she heard the gunshots.

"It sounded like at least 20 gunshots," said Myers, who has lived in the subdivision for 10 years. "I was in denial at first. But I have been shooting with my uncle, so I know that sound. I had never heard that many gunshots before."

Myers immediately called 911 to asked if they could confirm any reports of gunshots. She said she saw the police taking a man on a stretcher out of the rental home that served as the grisly crime scene.

"My neighbor saw two guys run across her backyard," she said, "and then we saw a guy down in the street with a gunshot wound."

Investigators are on the lookout for other suspects believed to be involved in the shooting. According to a press release sent out by authorities, witnesses said a white van with an unknown number of suspects left the scene. A white van was found abandoned 30 minutes later on Millerbrooke Court, less than five miles away.

Gwinnett police are tight-lipped about the exact motive for the multiple shooting, saying only that it is "drug related."

"At this time I can not specify what was found," said Cpl. Illiana Spellman, a spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Police. "Only that we are certain it was drug-related."

Gwinnett Police said it appears the three men were shot in the home. The gun battle then spilled outside into the driveway, where Jones was shot.

Gwinnett Place Mall, where Jones' body was found, is about three miles from the house where the gun battle began. The van was found about five miles away from the house, but in the opposite direction from the dead man's car.

Police have not released the names of anyone involved in the crime and have not released suspect descriptions for anyone in the white van.

Myers said she lives in a "great neighborhood."

"That's what is so sad about this," she said. "I'm not going to change anything. If anything, it makes me want to be more involved. I've met three of my neighbors today that I have never met. We prayed in the cul-de-sac for the men involved and the officers."

Anyone with information about additional persons/suspects involved in this shooting are urged to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS. Anonymous tips are welcome and could lead to a monetary reward of up to $2,000.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Movie stars come to Johns Creek

Hollywood stars came to Regal Cinemas in Johns Creek April 30 for the opening night premiere of the film, “Love N’ Dancing,” which stars Amy Smart and Tom Malloy. Several cast members and directors also made appearances at the theatre.

The film is about Jessica, a bored-with-life English teacher (Smart) who meets Jake, a West Coast Swing dancer (Malloy). The pair must try to elude all obstacles, romantic or otherwise, to stay focused on the goal - winning the World Title, and each other. The film also stars Billy Zane, Carolina Rhea, Rachel Dratch and Betty White, and includes an array of champion dancers.

“Love N’ Dancing” features West Coast Swing dancing, the origins of which can be traced to the Swing Era, even though the style looks nothing like the traditionally recognizable Swing Dance,” said Liz Chester, one of the film’s executive producers and co-owner of Daza Dance Ballroom Academy in Johns Creek.

Daza Dance hosted an invitation-only premiere party following the film’s viewing at the theater.

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Early crowd packs Duluth's Town Green

The threat of rain didn't deter an energetic crowd in downtown Duluth Thursday morning.

The crowd started filling onto the Town Green just after 4 a.m. to get ready to show the audience of Better Mornings Atlanta just how much Duluthians love their city. Chocolate Perks was onhand to provide coffee for those not used to rising so early.

Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris said she was very pleased with the turnout.

By the end of the show at 7 a.m., several local organizations and students had their chance to be on live television.

If you missed the broadcast, CBS officials said the segment highlighting Duluth will be availalbe online. Check back on for more details.

See more photos of the event in an upcoming edition of the Gwinnett Herald.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Duluth's own McCann to rehab in Gwinnett

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann will complete a Minor League rehab assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett Thursday.

McCann, who has experienced blurred vision in his left eye since opening day, was placed on the Disabled List on April 22. He is scheduled to begin a two-day rehab Wednesday at Single-A Rome as a designated hitter. He will complete his rehab as Gwinnett's starting catcher on Thursday, with intentions to return to Atlanta's lineup on Friday.

The All-Star catcher will be utilizing a new pair of prescription glasses to account for the blurred vision he experienced following Lasik surgery.

McCann, a graduate of Duluth High School in Gwinnett County, batted .195 through 13 games with Atlanta before being placed on the DL. Now a three-time All-Star, McCann will be making his Triple-A debut. He was promoted directly to Atlanta from Double-A Mississippi in 2005.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

How to protect yourself from swine flu

Though no cases have been reported in North Fulton, Forsyth or Gwinnett counties, precautions still should be taken against swine flu. Here are the facts on the virus.

A swine flu hotline that provides information and advice has been set up.

The number is 404-730-6522.

What is swine flu?

Swine influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs cause by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks happen regularly in pigs, and people do not normally get swine flu. However, human infections can and do happen in people who are around pigs. It is also possible for swine flu to pas from person to person. It is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have also reported diarrhea and vomiting. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying medical conditions.

How serious is infection?

Swine flu in humans can range from mild to sever. Between 2005 and January 2009, 12 cases of human swine flu were detected in the US with no deaths.

How long can a person with swine flu infect others?

People with the infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and for up to seven days following illness onset. Children, especially young children, might be contagious for longer.

Can I get it by eating pork?

No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food.

Protect yourself

According to the CDC, the common sense actions people can take to stay healthy include:

• Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners/hand sanitizers are also effective.

• Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Avoiding close contact with sick people.

• Keeping sick children (and staff members) at home until their illness has run its course

– Courtesy Fulton County Health and Human Services Department of Health and Wellness – Division of Epidemiology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

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Art in Historic Cumming

The Sawnee Artists Association and the City of cumming showed off painting, jewelry, woodcraft, sculpture and more over the weekend.
See next week's Forsyth Herald for more photos and information.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

JC police investigating April 20 home invasion

A Lake Manor Trace family was targeted by two criminals who broke into their home and stole their money April 20.

No one was hurt in the Crime, said officer J.T. Ware, a spokesman for the Johns Creek police. Police say they think crooks targeted the home because the family owned a business.

The suspects, who were looking for cash from the family's Smyrna-based package store, left with only about $1,100, a few credit cards and two cell phones.

Officers were called to the home shortly before midnight. There, a 26-year-old man said he, his mother and grandmother were upstairs when they heard someone come in through the unlocked front door.

Soon two men wearing masks, one of whom had a gun, came up the stairs and began threatening them. The victims were bound with zip ties and separated into different rooms.

Apparently the money from the family business is kept at the store, so the suspects resorted to stealing whatever wallets and purses they could grab. At one point, one of the suspects reportedly gave a PIN number for one of the victim's credit cards to a female accomplice over a radio, according police.

The victims could not tell police how the suspects escaped, as they were tied up, said Ware.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

West Forsyth presents ‘All Shook Up’

Studio West Productions at West Forsyth High School will present its rousing spring musical “All Shook Up” April 23-26 in the school auditorium.
Set in 1955, the show is about a hip-swiveling, guitar-playing stranger who comes to town and brings romance, rebellion, and rock ‘n roll into the life of a sweet, small-town girl, who dreams of leaving her sleepy town for the more exciting big city life. This story of romance and dreams is based around the hit songs of Elvis Presley. Director is Eric Gray.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. that Thursday through Saturday, and at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $7 for students, $10 for adults.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Abducted children found unharmed at Roswell apartments, suspect killed

Two children kidnapped by their mother's ex-boyfriend April 16 in Norcross were found unharmed the next morning after he was killed at the Concepts 21 apartment complex in Roswell while trying to run over a police officer.

The children, 22-month-old Adrian and 9-month-old Alfredo Bustos, have been returned to their mother, 22-year-old Adrian Stearns.

Both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and Roswell police are conducting separate investigations into the initial Crime and the police shooting of suspect, 25-year-old Jairo Bustos, said Lt. James McGee of the Roswell Police Department.

The young children were abducted by Bustos at their mother's home on Noble Forest Drive in unincorporated Norcross, said Cpl. Illana T. Spellman, public information officer for the Gwinnett County Police. She could not say whether Bustos was the boys' biological father.

Stearns called 911 at 4:20 p.m. and said Bustos, her ex-boyfriend who had recently been evicted from her apartment, had taken the boys and her car, a teal 1994 Honda Accord.

He apparently ran errands with the mother and children, then forced Stearns into the passenger seat of the Honda, driving around Dekalb County.

He eventually drove back to her home on Noble Forest Drive, where Stearns jumped out of the car, leaving the children in the back seats.

A Levi's Call for abducted children went out over the airwaves that night, and the next morning Roswell police were alerted to the teal Honda on Holcomb Bridge Road and Ga. 400, said McGee. Roswell police began canvassing the area and found Bustos within six minutes.

"At about 7:21 a.m. the Honda was spotted at the Concepts 21 apartments," said McGee. "Units arrived on scene and within about a minute we were alerted there were shots fired."

McGee said Bustos apparently tried to run over a police officer and was shot. The children were with him at the time and were recovered unharmed. The children's maternal grandparents live at Concepts 21, said police.

McGee said the officer was taken to North Fulton Regional hospital with injuries to his knee and elbow and is expected to be all right.

The Roswell Police Department is aiding the GBI in their criminal investigation. McGee said he will head up the internal investigation into the shooting.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Fulton to fund all SPLOST projects despite revenue loss

The Fulton County Board of Education may have avoided its own "battle of the bands" by agreeing to build band room additions and science labs at two older high schools as well as a brand new high school in North Fulton to relieve Milton and Roswell high schools.

How to fund the multi-million dollar package is a whole different conversation, and one that may not be answered for a few years. However, the school board apparently would rather face that problem later than the problems of not completing the SPLOST projects as originally planned.

Last month, Fulton School staff said sales tax revenues – which fund the construction projects - were down significantly and some promised projects might have to be put off until 2013 and beyond. That assessment immediately set off intense debate, with lobbying for specific projects coming from all sides.

In North Fulton, the Centennial and Chattahoochee high school communities were livid that promised work on their schools might be put on hold while a $65 million high school is built just down the road from nearly the new Milton High. On the other side of town, the Milton community is facing an enrollment projection of 2,800 students by 2012 and a return to the portable village if the proposed high school at Bethany and Cogburn roads were delayed. Roswell High faces similar growth circumstances and is seeking relief.

The projects in North Fulton are among the hundreds of projects scheduled to be paid for with proceeds from the 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). The current SPLOST is in its third cycle ending in June 2012. The five-year tax was anticipated to bring in $842.5 million.

However the figure has been downgraded to $670 million – a projected $170 million difference. There are hopeful signs. February collections this year were $12.5 million – down just slightly from last February's collections and above expectations – which could indicate the situation is not as dire as predicted.

After studying the numbers, some members of the school board urged that all promises be kept, saying estimates of plummeting sales tax revenues may be a bit pessimistic, and premature. The tanking economy also means builders have less work, and project costs – if started now - could be 15 percent to 20 percent less than anticipated.

"Now is the time to make hay and get the most out of our dollars," said Alpharetta board member Katie Reeves. "I'm a little leery about being overly conservative [with our financial assumptions.] I've got a fight brewing between high school communities and I don't need that."

In a rare push back against the new superintendent, the school board was not prepared to look only at funding projects for Fiscal Year 2010, which is what staff recommended. The board said the construction schedule must be considered over a multi-year period since each project runs over the course of several years.

"It is incredibly short-sighted to have a one-year approval process," said Reeves. "When you make a decision for 2010 its naïve to think 2010 does not then affect [later years]. It's time to kick the can down the road, look at all of the latest numbers and make decision for the entire program."

Roswell board member Linda Schultz also urged promises be kept to the North Fulton community which supported the SPLOST.

"[I would like to see us] keep all projects intact, which includes the additions to the older high schools along with building the new high school," said Schultz. "This is not only to solve capacity issues but to meet education specifications."

The school staff came back at the next board meeting with a revised construction schedule through 2012 which includes all the North Fulton projects, funded through a combination of SPLOST proceeds, millage, bonds, lease/purchase arrangements or other methods as needed. The project schedule will be voted on by the board at this month's meeting.

The only North Fulton project which may not make the cut for a 2012 opening is the middle school on Freemanville Road in Milton, which had been scheduled to open by 2012. The revised schedule now has that school opening in 2012 or 2013.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Suwanee Gateway receives $50,000 for beautification

GWINNETT COUNTY - Suwanee and two Community Improvement Districts in Gwinnett received $150,000 in grants to improve active I-85 interchanges with redevelopment potential.

The $50,000 grant that Suwanee received will be used for landscape enhancements around the GA-317 (Lawrenceville-Suwannee Road), Interstate-85 interchange, called the Suwanee Gateway by the city. The beautification project is part of the city's overall redevelopment plan that includes infrastructure, streetscape and transportation improvements as well as marketing and branding for the area. The landscaping improvements that will be partially funded through the grant are an integral part of the overall plan for the area.

"Suwanee Gateway is in good company with the CID areas," said Denise Brinson, director of economic and community development for the City of Suwanee. "The fact that so many communities are working to redevelop and make these types of improvements does nothing but cement the notion that great things are happening in Gwinnett."

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) also awarded $50,000 grants to the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District (CID) and Gwinnett Place CID.

The Gwinnett Place CID project centers around continued landscape improvements at the Interstate-85, Pleasant Hill Road interchange and includes enhanced landscaping for the northeast and southeast quadrants of that exit. The CID has already undertaken and completed a similar project for the Steve Reynolds Boulevard interchange and part of the Pleasant Hill Road exits.

"These interchanges serve as a welcome mat for Gwinnett County," said Joe Allen, executive director for Gwinnett Place CID. "The investments made set the standard and send a message that these areas remain successful and are poised to continue thriving in the future. Landscaping is just one step in promoting quality redevelopment throughout the area."

"These three projects were selected to receive Georgia Department of Transportation Roadside Enhancement and Beautification GATEway Grants based on review and recommendation of our Roadside Enhancement and Beautification Council members," said Davie Biagi, landscape architect for the Georgia Department of Transportation. " A primary goal of the GATEway Grant program is to fund enduring enhancement of the roadsides for the traveling public, so evidence the groups have solid plans for quality maintenance of their beautification projects was key. The Georgia DOT appreciates the fine examples and enthusiastic participation of these local government entities in beautifying Georgia's public rights of way. "

Gwinnett Village CID will be using their grant to help fund a $125,000 aesthetic improvement project centering around the southwest corner of Interstate-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard. The newly landscaped plot will serve as an extension of the previous $825,000 beautification project that the CID has undertaken including the landscaping of the interchanges at Jimmy Carter

Boulevard, Indian Trail Road and Beaver Ruin Road. Similar to these previous projects, the Jimmy Carter Boulevard, I-85 Gateway project will utilize an undulating pattern of primarily native and drought resistant plant materials.

"It's more than just landscaping, the aesthetic improvements promote a sense of security, pride and community," said Chuck Warbington, executive director for Gwinnett Village CID. "It helps create an environment that is appealing to residents and businesses in the district."

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Photography exhibit at Chocolate Perks

Duluth photographer Mary L. Buck of Lightscapes Photographic Artwork was featured at Chocolate Perks downtown March 27. Those in attendance enjoyed wine and cheese while viewing some of the artist's new work as well as other products. Chocolate Perks is located at 3160 Main Street in historic Downtown Duluth.

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Raceday in Cumming

More local photos available at

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Bridges not safe for Johns Creek fire trucks

Four bridges in Johns Creek are not certified to convey city fire trucks, so Fire Chief Joseph Daniels told the city two weeks ago he would no longer send his fire trucks over bridges that were not built to hold such loads.

The four city bridges don't have the capacity to take the tonnage of the fire trucks, a problem that has gone neglected since Johns Creek's Fulton County days.

Daniels voiced his concern about a fire truck crossing a bridge and having it collapse. City officials say the likelihood of such a catastrophe is not great, but they are going to accept that it is still an unacceptable risk for the firefighters. That means fire response to those areas served by those bridges will be delayed, and fire is the kind of emergency where minutes numbered in single digits are crucial.

– one on Bell Road, one on Parsons Road and two on Old Alabama Road – will not be used by some JCFD vehicles. These bridges can take 10 tons to 18 tons. But the Fire Department's two ladder trucks – which mount water cannons that shoot down into fires – are 40-ton vehicles. And only the Bell Road bridge can take the regular 17.6-ton engines.

Mayor Mike Bodker said the bridges have been used for years by the Fulton County Fire Department carrying as heavy or heavier engines with no problems. Now the city is looking at temporary measures to bring the bridges up strength until the bridges can be replaced.

"The fire chief and staff at Public Works are meeting this week to discuss ways to shore up and repair the bridges to support the fire equipment. Some of the measures we think we can effect pretty quickly," said Bodker.

The bridges are not eligible for federal stimulus money although they are in the Atlanta Regional Commission's Transportation Improvement Plan because they are not "shovel ready" within the next 120 days.

A possible bond referendum is at least a year away, according to Bodker.

"These bridges have been on the books for upgrades since before Johns Creek was a city. Why they got no farther, I can't say, I wasn't here then," Bodker said. "Since the city came into being, it has been a priority [at ARC]."

Meanwhile, the city can only do what it can afford to do. In the next budget, the bridges will be a priority for the city, but it takes time, he said.

The bottom line for Johns Creek residents is there is no quick-fix plan to repair these bridges, although City Administrator John Kachmar did say the city is looking into ways to shore them up temporarily so that they could be used in an emergency.

The city is also investigating if any state money is available, but in this year of a $2 billion state shortfall in revenue, no one is holding his or her breath.

"Johns Creek is doing the right thing in that we are not just protecting our citizens threatened by fire, but we are protecting our firefighters as well by not sending them in harm's way when these bridges pose a risk," Bodker said. "I think Johns Creek will also do the right thing, and that is get these bridges repaired and able to serve our fire equipment."

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sheriff: Murder suspect a 'stone cold killer'

FORSYTH COUNTY - Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton did not mince words when asked what he thought of Elijah A. Britton, the 39-year-old man now charged with the August 2006 murder of Roswell mother of two Octavia N. Atkins.

"Personally, I think he's a stone cold killer," said Paxton. "That's what he is."

Evidence against Britton, who has been in custody in Clayton County Jail since October of last year for the 2007 kidnapping of Chastity Jones, support his position enough to bring charges against him.

In addition to the DNA evidence allegedly linking Britton to the murder of Atkins, Britton is also a "person of interest" in the May 2007 death of Chastity Jones' husband, Brutus Jones. His body was found in Union City just days after she was kidnapped. Jones later went missing from her South Fulton County home in August 2008, said Paxton, and has not been found.

"The one common name that keeps popping up with these people is Elijah Britton," said Paxton.

Forsyth authorities are working on having Britton brought to the county to face a judge, said the sheriff.

For the full story, see this week's Forsyth Herald.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Get ready! Suwanee City Hall celebration next week

The community grand opening celebration for Suwanee's new City Hall will have a definite green hue. The March 28 celebration will include several green elements – literally and figuratively – in recognition that the new City Hall at 330 Town Center Avenue was designed, constructed, and is operated to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.

Festivities will begin at Town Center Park at about 2:30 p.m. with a community photo; approximately 1,500 people will help the City create a human aerial art image that will be photographed via helicopter. Participants, who were required to register in advance, may begin signing in and receiving their commemorative t-shirts about 1 p.m. More details will be emailed to registered participants.

The official ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. followed by an open house – or open City Hall, in this case. Entertainment will be provided throughout the grand opening celebration by students in the North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge high school fine arts departments.

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Follow Forsyth Schools' Twitter

FORSYTH COUNTY- Forsyth County Schools announced today the addition of its Twitter account to keep students, parents, staff and the public updated on news and information about their schools. FCS' free Twitter account provides a variety of information, including the latest news, notifications, changes in School Board schedules, emergency updates and more.

Twitter is a social networking and messaging site to post updates, called "tweets". Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 bytes in length. Twitter users who choose to follow the District through the account called "FCSchoolsGA" will get these updates or "tweets" on their Twitter home page. Subscribers can be informed about new tweets through text messaging, RSS feeds and on their Twitter Web site.

"This provides FCS an additional method to deliver information quickly and directly to our stakeholders," said Jennifer Caracciolo, FCS' Director of Public Information and Communication. "Twitter compliments our highly utilized electronic communication tools, including our website, e-newsletters, videos, blogs, R4 data dashboard, ParentPortal site and phone/email messaging."

Twitter is free to use over the web, but using text messaging may incur phone services provider fees. Many businesses, such as Cisco, JetBlue, IBM and Whole Foods Market use Twitter, as well as universities, news services, the American Red Cross and NASA. To receive FCS tweets, you must have a Twitter account.

FCS has received past recognition as the "Most Tech-Savvy Board for Large School Systems" and as a "National Salute District for Technology". To communicate with stakeholders, FCS' Board of Education also utilizes eBoard for their meetings and Strategic Plan, e-newsletters, and video and audio recordings of their meetings.

For more information,contact Jennifer Caracciolo at 770-887-2461.

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Open juvenile court hearings to help abused kids

By Alice McQuade, Julie Bolen
We may wince at terrible brutality visited on children by their parents, especially those returned to abusive situations by Georgia’s juvenile courts, but the public is largely unaware of the plight of Georgia’s foster children until one of them makes the news. Closed juvenile court hearings for abused and neglected children ensure that we remain in the dark.
At least 59 Georgia children died of child abuse in 2007. An unknown number were seriously injured. Recent tragic examples were Nateyonna Banks (age 2 at death), Aiden Richards (age 10 months at time of near-fatal injury) and Adrianna Swain (age 3 at time of near-fatal injury). Each was injured or alleged to have been injured by his or her parents after being returned to those parents from foster care. In theory, Georgia’s abused and neglected children have several layers of protection. Caseworkers from the Department of Family and Children Services investigate reports of abuse and decide if there is sufficient evidence to bring a child into foster care. A court-appointed attorney is supposedly named to represent the best interests of the child. In many counties, citizens’ review panels examine cases of children in DFACS custody every three to six months and make recommendations to the judge. A judge may also appoint a court-appointed special advocate, a trained volunteer, to investigate the child and the family and offer an independent assessment.
But even if one or more of these responsible parties raises a warning flag about the safety of sending a child back home, the judge decides whether to heed those warnings. In each of the abuse cases above, a juvenile judge decided to send the child home —- decisions seemingly based more on wishful thinking than good judgment. In the case of Adrianna Swain, the judge ignored the warnings of the court-appointed special advocate and the citizen review panel when she sent Adrianna home.
Parties concerned in a case —- such as extended family, teachers, neighbors, and friends of the family —- are excluded from juvenile court, even though they might offer additional information to the judge and support for the child. Foster parents may even be excluded. Opening juvenile court deprivation hearings would help hold judges, caseworkers and attorneys accountable and make it more difficult for judges to ignore red flags about sending a child back to a potentially unsafe environment.
Opening deprivation hearings could also help the public have confidence in the process, support early intervention efforts and potentially bring in community resources to help children in foster care. Delinquency hearings will still be closed to protect the child.
Twenty-one states have open or partially open deprivation hearings. Some have had open courts for close to 20 years. None of the states that have opened deprivation proceedings have reversed that decision. None have reported significant harm to the children due to open deprivation hearings.
Senate Bill 207 is awaiting action in the House and reserves the right of a juvenile judge to close the courtroom if in the best interest of the child and if a written reason is given. This bill is an attempt to bring transparency to juvenile courts —- the only Georgia courts in which closed doors are the rule, not the exception.
Alice McQuade and Julie Bolen, both of Marietta, are members of Better Courts for Kids, advocating juvenile court reform.

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Most remarkable interview: Conversation with Rain Man

I have met many interesting people during my travels as a journalist and as a citizen. Of movie stars there are several: Debbie Reynolds, Mitzi Gaynor and Anthony Perkins come to mind. President Jimmy Carter, both before his presidency and after, stand among my treasured memories. I have interviewed Newt Gingrinch at a Wendy’s, in a car and in his Washington office as speaker of the House.
Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, once ran over my foot with one by way of answering when I asked him what would happen if he ran over someone’s foot with it. It doesn’t hurt.
I listened to a sermon preached by Pope Paul VI with 400,000 of my closest friends in St. Peter’s Square. That made up for missing Woodstock.
I saw Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart on the London stage on successive nights in a memorable month spent exploring that most fascinating city.
But Hillside Elementary School in Roswell was the scene of what I am sure will be one my most memorable interviews. There I met the Rain Man and his father. His real name is Kim Peek, and he is the most remarkable person I have ever met.
His story defies description. He read the encyclopedia at the age of 2. He is still a voracious reader and retains 98 percent of everything he reads or hears. Ask him for the day of the week for any date since the year 1 A.D., and he can tell you within seven seconds.
Tell him your birthday and he will tell the day of the week you were born, the day of the week it falls this year (Sunday for me) and the day you will retire. He assumes it will be the day you hit 65, the present economy notwithstanding.
He is almost my exact contemporary, born four months after me.

Yet because he was born with brain damage, a doctor told his parents to put him in a home and forget about him. Dr. Petter Lindström, whose only other claim to fame was to have been married to Ingrid Bergman, could only spare the Peeks five minutes because he didn’t want to be late for a golf outing.
The Peeks did not do that. Instead, they nurtured their son and that spark in him that struggled to emerge. They eventually divorced, but his father, Fran Peek, has cared for him to this day, dressing him, shaving him and doing the innumerable daily chores we take for granted.
Kim finally learned to walk at 4, but was denied public school in those unenlightened days. We, the world, would never have known him except for a chance encounter with screenwriter Barry Morrow in the 1980s. Morrow had written the TV movie “Bill,” the true story of Bill Sackter.
Sackter was born developmentally disabled and spent decades institutionalized and forgotten until found by a young college student – Morrow. He became a part of Morrow’s family, which Morrow later immortalized with Mickey Rooney.
Morrow wrote the screenplay for “Rain Man” with Kim as its inspiration. Kim next met Dustin Hoffman, who based much of his characterization on him. As Fran relates, Hoffman told Kim, “I am the star, but you are the heavens.”
“Rain Man” was the coming out of Kim. The movie put him into the spotlight, even more so when Morrow won the Academy Award (among four Oscars for the film). Again, it was Hoffman who insisted Fran share Kim with the world.
Fran was reluctant, but he allowed Kim to speak at a local school. He wowed them, answering their prepared questions on history, geography, literature, music, numbers (although he cannot do math) and sports.
Before “Rain Man,” Kim would never look anyone in the eye. Today, he engages total strangers in open conversation. His career as a speaker has not only given the world Kim Peek, it has given Kim the world.
He and Fran bring a message to the world. Do not judge a book by its cover. In each of us is a soul with the right to human dignity. That was why Robyn Benjamin, special needs teacher at Hillside, arranged for Kim to come to speak to the students as part of Georgia’s Exceptional Children’s Week.
Kim is not autistic, as Rain Man was portrayed. He is what doctors call a savant. He is not supposed to be capable of critical thought, yet he comments on such topics as the war in Afghanistan and Islamic terrorism.
A doctor recently asked him if he understood what a symbiotic relationship he has with his father. Kim replied, “Oh doctor, why do you use such big words? Can’t you just say my father and I share the same shadow?”
NASA has taken an interest in how Kim’s brain has improvised to find order in his universe. NASA scientists say he is the “most prodigious mega-memory savant the world has ever produced.”
Kim has a measurable IQ of 87, yet so much of what he knows is immeasurable. His greatest gift is the ability to inspire. The story of Kim and Fran Peek is that the spark of God lives in us all. I say it is their story because you cannot understand Kim’s message without Fran, though I have given Fran short shrift here.
What I can say is that in the teacher’s lounge at Hillside Elementary, I met a giant.

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Forsyth recognizes elementary school teachers of the year

Forsyth County – Students, school officials and staff gathered March 19 to recognize the 2009 elementary school teachers of the year.

Candidates for Forsyth County's Teacher of the Year program should be an exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled teacher who:

• plans to continue in active teaching status;

• inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn;

• possesses the respect and admiration of students, parents, and colleagues;

• plays an active and useful role in the community as well as in the school; and

• is poised and articulate.

The announced teachers include

2009 School-Level Teachers of the Year Announced

Big Creek Elementary Christy Bonds (5th Grade)

Chattahoochee Elementary

Amber Hoke (3rd Grade)

Chestatee Elementary Jennifer Roberts (2nd Grade)

Coal Mountain Elementary Penni Arner (5th grade)

Cumming Elementary Katye Carlson (2nd grade)

Daves Creek Elementary

Linda Spudic (ITS)

Johns Creek Elementary Amy Leach (2nd Grade)

Mashburn Elementary Kim Lochbaum (1st grade)

Matt Elementary Jennifer Brown (1st Grade)

Midway Elementary Jessica Connell (Kindergarten)

Sawnee Elementary Tammy Bohon (ESOL)

Settles Bridge Elementary Meredith Sams (French - ESOL)

Sharon Elementary Mary Paige Jones (Speech/Lanuage Pathologist)

Shiloh Point Elementary Joanie Fowler (Kindergarten)

Silver City Elementary Sandy Wells (Special Education)

Vickery Creek Elementary LuAnn Roberts (3rd grade)

Liberty Middle Laura Skaletsky ( SC Autism)

Little Mill Middle Angela Gula (8th grade Physical Science)

North Forsyth Middle Amy Bonesteel (SPED)

Otwell Middle

Jenna Ward (Life Science 7th)

Piney Grove Middle Wendell Hall (Diversified Technology)

Riverwatch Middle Irene Pless (6 Grade Science)

South Forsyth Middle Kristen Deuchle (6th Grade Science)

Vickery Creek Middle Derek Piper (6th Grade Gifted Science)

Forsyth Central High Valerie Kaye (Media Specialist)

North Forsyth High Joan Graham (Biology & Gifted Science)

South Forsyth High Kim Oliver (Honors World Literature and Composition and AP Language

West Forsyth High Rebecca Austin (Advanced Placement Physics, Physics and Honors Biology)

Piedmont Learning Center Gypsy Frix (Inclusion Special Education)

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Forsyth Chairman of Elections will serve on BRAVO

Gary Smith, Chairman of the Board of Registrations and Elections in Forsyth County, Georgia, has been elected to the board of directors of the Operation BRAVO Foundation, a 501(c)3 foundation whose purpose is to improve voting accessibility for American citizens overseas, as designated in the federal Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). BRAVO is the acronym for Bring Remote Access to Voters Overseas.

The announcement of Smith's selection was made by Pat Hollarn, president of BRAVO and formerly the Supervisor of Elections for 20 years in Okaloosa County, Florida. "Gary Smith has an outstanding reputation in the nation-wide election community for the many improvements and high standards he has instilled in the Forsyth County elections office. His business experience, especially overseas, has great value to the foundation, and his dedication to increase voting opportunities especially for our military service members matches the foundation's goal," said Hollarn. Smith has been highly recognized by the national Election Center and was awarded the designation of Certified Election and Registration Administrator (CERA). He is a sought-after speaker at other state and national conferences, and has provided testimony to Congress on election issues.

The first pilot project of BRAVO was the Okaloosa Distance Balloting Pilot, which allowed military and civilian voters at designated locations in England, Germany, and Japan to vote their official ballot by secure electronic transmission, and the foundation is now working on developing an expanded pilot for voters from several states stationed in combat zones to have better ballot access electronically and securely.

The Operation BRAVO Foundation exists to help disenfranchised U.S. overseas civilian and military voters effectively exercise their right to reliably cast a secure and private ballot.

For further information on Operation Bravo, please review our website at

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Berlin resigns from Johns Creek chamber

JOHNS CREEK – Geoff Berlin, the only president the Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce has ever had, and one of its key founders, resigned to take a job with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Berlin, a mathematician, joins the FAA as it engages in a major initiative to transform the land-based navigation system to a satellite-based system. The goal is to improve route capacity, increase operational efficiency and reduce pollution.

He will continue to help the chamber in an advisory role as needed by its new leadership team.

The chamber's next meeting is Thursday, March 19, a breakfast meeting at 7:30 a.m. EBC Business and Conference Center at 11330 Lakefield Drive, Johns Creek, hosts the pancake breakfast. Charles Ross of Georgia Tech's Advanced Technology Development Center will speak on how the center works with start ups.

The chamber's next big event is its golf outing on Tuesday, March 24 at Rivermont Country Club. Contact Fred Van Patten at or call 678-455-4830 for information or to join the tourney.

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Slain Peace Corps volunteer from Cumming ‘a beacon of light’

CUMMING — The Forsyth County family of a slain Peace Corps volunteer is struggling to put the pieces back together after the 24-year-old was found dead outside her home in Badjoude, Benin, a west African nation, March 12.
According to a state department official quoted on a Peace Corps Web site, Catherine “Kate” Puzey, serving in Benin as a secondary education teacher and advocate for local women and children, appeared to have been murdered.
However, neither the State Department nor the government of Benin have determined the cause of death. The State Department said Benin’s government has expressed its condolences and has pledged full cooperation in the investigation.
David Puzey, a 27-year-old graduate student at UC Berkeley in California, said while its common for family to remember loved ones kindly, for her entire life his sister was “a beacon of light for everyone she knew.”
Following a visitation at Ingram Funeral Home in Cumming March 20, Puzey’s family is holding a memorial in her honor at Birmingham United Methodist Church the next day in Milton.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks well wishers send donations in her memory to the Kate Puzey Memorial Fund, c/o Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, Suite 3100, 1230 Peachtree Street, NE, Atlanta GA 30309-3592.
For more on this story, see next week's edition of your Appen Newspaper.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Body found on banks of Chattahoochee

The badly decomposed body of 54-year-old Duluth was found on the banks of the Chattahoochee River Monday evening, according to Johns Creek police. He died of natural causes, said police.

Capt. Brian Weaver, head of the city's Criminal Investigations Division, said a fisherman discovered the body of David M. Holcomb around 5:30 p.m. near Abbots Bridge Road where the river separates Johns Creek and Duluth. He immediately called police.

"It was right there close to the bank," said Weaver. "He'd been there a while, maybe a few weeks."

Holcomb's body underwent an autopsy early Tuesday morning, said Weaver, and the Fulton County medical examiner concluded Holcomb died of natural causes.

"There were no signs of foul play," said Weaver. "Mr. Holcomb had an extensive medical history."

Weaver said Holcomb had been diagnosed with cancer and had recently gotten out of the hospital. Holcomb's family reportedly told police he enjoyed fishing on the banks of the river.

"Maybe he passed down there due to his medication, and nobody saw him down there until yesterday," said Weaver.

However, he said, Holcomb's family did not report the man missing despite the fact he'd been down at the river's banks for what appeared to be at least two weeks based on his level of decomposition.

"I can't explain it," said Weaver. "Maybe he goes off down there for long periods of time. There are no signs of foul play, so there's nothing for us to go on.

"It could have been hypothermia, it could have been anything. He's been down there a long time."

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Milton grad puts federal documents online

Milton High graduate Scott Stovall spearheded the technology that has proivided a one-stop Web site for authentic government information from all branches of the government.

Stovall serves as chief strategy and execution officers for the U.S. Government Printing Office, which presents the Federal Digital System (FDsys). More than 154,000 documents are currently accessible, with additional documents being added daily. FDsys offers incredible search capabilities for users such as: searching by Congressional Committee, a Member of Congress, keyword and date. FDsys will replace GPOAccess in mid-2009 and releases with additional functionality will occur throughout the next several years.

Link to FDsys:

Stovall earned a bachelor's of science degree in technology from Georgia Southern University in 1989. He is a native of Alpharetta and a 1984 graduate of Milton High School.

"Scott spearheaded the technology research for the system when it was just an idea five years ago," said GPO's CIO Mike Wash. "Scott's commitment and skills have been invaluable in selecting the appropriate technologies for the development and successful launch of FDsys."

The Office of the Federal Register's new publication, Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents, was specifically engineered for FDsys. This publication contains information released by The White House Press Office regarding orders, statements and remarks made by President Barack Obama. This daily online publication replaces the printed Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents.


In addition to publication sales, GPO makes government information available at no cost to the public through GPO Access (, and through partnerships with approximately 1,250 libraries nationwide participating in the Federal Depository Library Program. For information, visit

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St. Brendan parish celebrates Ash Wednesday

Saint Brendan Catholic Community of Cumming held a Bilingual Ash Wednesday Mass celebration, during which ashes were distributed in recognition of Ash Wednesday.

See more photos on

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Techno Bob presents: Gwinnett firm helps fix your BlackBerry

A Norcross company, Corus360, just sent me a release saying it has released a BlackBerry application that enables IT administrators to securely connect and remotely operate BlackBerry devices used in their organization.

That is meant to save shipping the devices back to the home office, or making an in-office appointment with an IT rep.

Called Remote360, the company claims its competitive advantage is the reduction in time to fix the device by allowing remote access.

"Remote360 for BlackBerry is an invaluable tool for any company's help desk," said Tom Lowry, Senior Partner at Corus360, in the release sent today. "In any economy, companies cannot ignore the benefit of rapid time to resolution and reducing operating costs."

Using the Remote360 system, a smartphone user can enable remote access to their device, allowing a support user to view the device's screen in a web browser and issue commands to drive the device remotely. During a session, both the support user and the BlackBerry user will see the same screen and can interact with the device.

If you are interested in learning more, the company has lined up four online demos.

Thursday, Mar 12, 9-10 a.m.

Thursday, Mar 19, 9-10 a.m.

The Remote360 demo is now available at


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Cumming tax protestor convicted of obstructing IRS

GAINESVILLE - A jury in federal district court found Daniel Edward Turner, 44, of Cumming, guilty of charges of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service and presenting bogus financial instruments to the IRS and the Department of the Treasury to pay his back taxes.

Turner was originally indicted in April 2008.

Beginning in 1998 and continuing to 2007, Turner obstructed the internal revenue laws through a number of acts, including not filing tax returns, not paying taxes, hiding income, sending false financial instruments to the IRS and the Treasury, according to U.S. Attorney David Nahmias and the information presented in court. Documents also were sent claiming that IRS employees committed misconduct, including the IRS District director, the chief of the Automated Collection Service and the Revenue Agent who audited him.

Between April 1998 and February 2004, Turner paid fees to an organization called "American Rights Litigators" (ARL) in exchange for his use of ARL's fraudulent tax schemes. He submitted more than $491,000 in bogus financial instruments -- called "Bills of Exchange" -- to the U.S. Department of Treasury and IRS in payment of the federal tax liabilities owed by him. These bogus "Bills of Exchange" took various forms, some of which appeared similar to regular checks, but were fraudulent in that they attempted to draw funds from non-existent accounts with the U.S. Treasury Department.

The evidence at trial also showed that in 2004, Turner obstructed IRS collection activities by causing a contractor of his residential framing business to issue over $92,500 in payments to another person for services rendered by him, in an effort to conceal his true income from the IRS.

The jury found Turner guilty on six of the eight counts charged in the superseding indictment, including one count of obstructing or impeding the due administration of the internal revenue laws and five counts of submitting fictitious financial obligations. The jury acquitted him on two additional fictitious financial obligation counts. The Court ordered that Turner be remanded into custody after the verdict.

U.S. Attorney Nahmias said of today's verdict, "Everyone must pay their taxes, regardless of whether they agree with the tax laws. The jury's verdict should send the message that tax protestors are not above the law. This defendant will now be held accountable for his obstructive and lawless conduct."

Reginael D. McDaniel, IRS Special Agent In Charge, Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office, said: "The law is crystal clear: people must pay their taxes. There is no gray area on this issue."

The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on Count 1, and 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of Counts 4 through 8. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date before U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Leta and Tax Division Trial Attorney Steven Grimberg are prosecuting the case.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Economic turnaround by mid-'10, Dhawan says

ATLANTA - America will emerge in the second quarter of 2010 from its longest economic downturn since President Jimmy Carter's 1975 recession. But that will occur only if the government gets banks back lending money.

If that doesn't happen, all the stimulus in the world won't help.

That's the opinion of economist Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Georgia State University Economic Forecasting Center, which he gave at his quarterly forecast Feb. 25.

"The government's stimulus plan – the strength of which is debatable – will succeed only if the credit system is functioning on its own rather than on life support from the Federal Reserve," Dhawan told about 350 business people, Realtors and media at his conference.

He cautions against just throwing TARP money at the banks. They should be made to show they are solvent (not so-called zombie banks) and will be in a position to begin lending again. The trick is to get money circulating again and to provide credit availability.

The good news is that the Fed and the Treasury are sending signals this is part of the plan.

The bad news is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's press conference to reveal the plans was woefully sketchy on details about how this would be done and sent an already spooked Wall Street off on another downward spiral.

"If the Treasury can put the specifics of the [recovery] plan on the table soon and give Wall Street the assurances it is looking for, then the recovery can begin to pick up steam. This is a big, big if. If the banks are not up and operating and the credit system working, all bets are off."

Right now, the trust in the financial system is gone, he said.

"Before, investors worried about the return on the investment. But now they are worried about the return of the investment," Dhawan said.

Retrenchment in American companies is the order of the day. Pull back and wait for the situation to get better.

Dhawan says investment is one of the best indicators of job growth and even stock market performance, but that just is not happening.

The public just isn't buying and so down the line, everyone is thinning inventory, laying off sales personnel, delivery people, factory workers and so it goes.

In Georgia, the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. A quarter million jobs will have disappeared in 2008 and 2009, before modest gains in employment start to turn the corner in the end of 2010. Nationwide, Dhawan predicts 4.5 million jobs will go nationwide before the recovery.

That loss of 143,000 Georgia jobs in '09 is projected against a total of 3.9 million jobs with 60 percent of them in the Atlanta area. That translates to 92,000 metro Atlantans looking for a job this year. Dhawan predicts unemployment will crack 10 percent before subsiding.

Statistics show the job loss will be across the board in manufacturing, construction, retail-trade, leisure-hospitality and even local governments, which are the largest employers in the state. Population growth has kept only health services and education on solid ground.

"The last recession in 2001-04, we saw job recovery was fast. This time job recovery will be slow," Dhawan said. "We should be proactive, optimistic but not pre-emptive. This is going to be slow and brutal.

"The fog of uncertainty is so great now, it is difficult to see beyond the next 30 days."

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Local dentist travels to Honduras to help others

Seth Gibree now has an entirely different outlook on the nation's economic downturn.

The metro area dentist recently returned from a trip to Honduras where he and a group worked for five days repairing and, in some cases, pulling teeth by the light of a truck's headlights under a pavilion deep into the trees. It was intense work, he said, sometimes working "literally nonstop" from 8 a.m. to 10:15 p.m.

Much of the work including fillings, about 600 total, and Gibree said so many fillings took time.

"Some of them were blown out with cavities so we had to rebuild them," he said. "It was exhausting work, but so spiritually rewarding."

During the five days of work, Gibree said word spread around the region. People made four-hour trips by bus, rode for miles on bicycles, or simply walked for hours.

Once they arrived, some patients waited the entire day until the sun had long since set.

"They were all so patient, so appreciative," he said. "I remember a lady and her kids waiting since 8 a.m. and it was pushing 9:15 p.m. She had stayed so long, she had no ride back home. We arranged to have guard take them back."

There was what Gibree described as an "emotional side" to the entire experience, an aspect that made him go that extra mile to help the people in need. Some left the dentist's chair weeping tears of joy.

"You sometimes felt you could do so much more," he said. "It's almost like we changed their lives when they realized we had come from a foreign country to give to them."

Gibree is also the father of two young sons, so seeing children in need especially tugged at his heartstrings. He remembers helping a six-year-old that "never made a sound or moved."

"We had to take all his upper teeth out," he said. "We had numbed him and he had never been numbed before, but he didn't move or cry. All he said was, 'gracias' while he bit down on cotton when we were done."

Moments like this made him want to try all the harder for the people, Gibree said.

"There were times I said I didn't care what it takes," he said. "I was going to make this look better than anything I had seen down there."

It was a trip of many firsts for Gibree. For one, he had never slept under machinegun-toting guards.

From 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., basically anytime the sun had set, guards carrying the machineguns were never far.

"It was pouring rain one night," he said. "You'd go outside and there they were. They'd work 12-hour shifts for $5.25."

When the five days came to an end, Gibree and company had seen 325 patients and made between 425 to 450 extractions. The grand total was more than $300,000 in dental work.

Seeing the faith of those people, Gibree said, strengthened his own faith.

"All the stuff we have here, whether it's our homes or whatever else," he said, "what is important is our families. I felt we did a really good thing there and changed a number of people's lives. It was 100 percent worth it."

Gibree said he was going to encourage colleagues and others to make the trip.

"It is so life changing," he said.

Anyone interested in how they can help can call 770-888-8282.

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Alpharetta City Center plan gets warm welcome

ALPHARETTA - City residents got their first good look last week at the latest plans for the downtown City Center, a $69 million public-private development planned on property around City Hall, and they seemed pleased.

City Council chambers were nearly full as the city held the first of four public information meetings about the partnership between the city and the Solomon Group.

The project would feature a mix of retail shops, restaurants, offices and civic space overlooking a one-acre public square.

Bowing to public requests, this project won't include residential space, though surrounding properties might.

Private property owners of the strip center and homes south of the City Hall property aren't participating. Instead, the city took the project across Haynes Bridge Road to add a new downtown park.

City Council will vote on whether to pursue a $24.5 million bond referendum March 30 after the final meeting.

"We just need to hear from you what you think about the project," said Mayor Arthur Letchas.

Alpharetta would spend $12 million on a new city hall, fund part of the below-grade parking and pay for the town green and downtown park. Private investment would pick up about a third of the project's cost.

The remainder would come from Fulton County, if the new Alpharetta Library was built on property adjoining City Center.

Al Holbrook of the Solomon Group said the first phase, which would include the town green and one of the two commercial buildings flanking the new city hall, could come within 18 to 24 months of groundbreaking.

Before anything is done, city residents will have to approve the project in a citywide referendum.

"We have not yet decided to put this on the ballot in November," said Councilman David Belle Isle, who has led the project for the city.

Belle Isle said he preferred to start sooner rather than later, because the city could take advantage of the lowest interest rates in a generation and the lowest construction costs in a decade. In addition, the city's bond payments are about to decrease by 81 percent.

"This is an opportunity to get out in front of this economic situation," he said.

The city's debt payments will drop by $7 million annually starting in 2013, the same year payments would start for a City Center bond, estimated to be $1.8 million annually.

The city will save $6 million over 25 years by eliminating current leases on office space for the Community Development and Finance departments, said Finance Director Tom Harris.

"If we don't, we spend $6 million and have nothing to show for it in 25 years," Harris said. "What this means is this bond can be funded in our current tax structure without a tax increase.

Belle Isle said the city could even increase its budget by more than $5 million without raising taxes even with the City Center.

The savings over 30 years with some of the lowest interest and construction costs will pay for a third of the principal or more. Holbrook said now is the time to do it.

Holbrook's team, which includes eight companies, more than 20 specialists and principals with some 150 years of experience, are committed to the project and to the city.

Solmon Group has made more than seven different investments in land and buildings in downtown Alpharetta, and plans to move to City Center once it is built.

He said one company that needs almost 30,000 square feet of space expressed interest in relocating into the downtown project.

Taxpayers have approved bond issues in the past that have built fire stations, police headquarters, parks, Westside Parkway, intersections, municipal court and greenways, said City Administrator Bob Regus.

If the public supports the project on a November ballot, Regus said ground could be broken on City Center as early as April 2010.

"This is your city, this is your money. We are going to do it only if you want us to," Belle Isle said.

Alpharetta resident Scott Morrisey voiced his support of the project, as did Aaron Slattery, one of the partners in Slice Cafe and the soon-to-be opened Durty Kelly's Irish Pub on North Main Street.

Slattery was passionate in his support for the project and downtown Alpharetta.

"We need this project to happen. Many ventures started with the knowledge and hope of this project. Patience and savings accounts have kept these business owners downtown as they wait for it to happen," Slattery said. "Instead of thinking can we afford it, we should be thinking we cannot afford not to have it."

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Forsyth holding town hall meeting tonight on Bethel Park

CUMMING - Forsyth County District 4 Commissioner Patrick Bell will hold a town hall meeting regarding Bethel Park Tuesday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting will be held at Chestatee Elementary School, located at 6945 Keith Bridge Road, Gainesville.

The meeting will provide attendees the opportunity to provide input and comments regarding Bethel Park.

All Forsyth County residents and any interested persons are invited and encouraged to attend.

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We have a failure to communicate - and to lead

A long time ago when I was working at the Miami Herald and someone had really screwed up, I was there and watched the president of the newspaper at the time, Phil deMontmollin, slowly take in the situation for what seemed like an eternity.

It looked like he was getting ready to explode. When he finally looked up, he quietly and without emotion said, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

No one said anything and that was all that he said before he turned and walked away. I remember that I was somehow involved in the issue at the time, and I will probably never forget the look on his face or the tone of his voice. You might say that it made an impression on me.

Something I read last week reminded me of that incident. And what I read made me think about President Obama's stimulus bill and the process we all just watched.

Votes in the House split 100 percent down party lines. Votes in the Senate split almost 100 percent down party lines. The vote to reconcile the House to the Senate bill split down party lines.

I don't know what to say. One side was in favor of a rescue and the other against one? Is now the time for the same old partisan politics?

This country - and the world for that matter - is in deep economic trouble right now, the worst trouble in almost a hundred years. And the "leadership" of this country, and I use the term loosely, votes down party lines on a bill that is supposed to prevent the worst case outcome. If that isn't important enough for the "leaders" on both sides to drop the partisanship, the gamesmanship, the posturing, and to for once, make the right decisions for the right reason, I don't know what is.

I keep asking myself if I am expecting too much from our congressional representatives and our senators. I want to think that neither side tried hard enough to find common ground.

I want to speculate that there was simply a lack of leadership - true leadership from both sides. Where are the real leaders? Who are they? Surely out of the whole lot there are one or two with enough backbone on both sides to lead this pack - this herd - in the direction of the greater good instead in the direction of lunacy. Surely.

Fareed Zakaria, in his recent book "The Post-American World," says, "The problem today is that the American political system seems to have lost its ability to create broad coalitions that solve complex issues."

He further goes on to say that our current political system "has been captured by money, special interests, a sensationalist media, and ideological attack groups. The result is ceaseless, virulent debate about trivia - politics as theater - and very little substance, compromise, and action."

He characterizes our current state as "a "can-do" country that is now saddled with a "do-nothing" political process designed for partisan battle rather than problem solving."

And I think he has unfortunately hit the nail squarely on it's head.

How has it come to this, and what is it going to take to fix it? I used to think that we had entered the Information Age, where more people than ever before had more access to more information then any other time in the history of the world. And that this was a good thing.

I thought that with more complete information that we would make better decisions. But it doesn't seem to be working that way and, in fact, it seems that it is having the opposite effect. It feels like we have become so overwhelmed with information from so many venues that our capacity to make good decisions has been diminished.

President Obama has stated that the partisanship in our political process needs to end - that we need to focus on finding common ground with each other and on making collective and productive decisions.

My hope is that he stays this course until people start to believe that it is in fact possible and that it is also necessary and in our individual and collective best interest. It's an ambitions goal but a worthy one - and our future depends on it. But our time is not unlimited and I hope we wake up before it's too late.

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Alpharetta picks Sewczwicz as director of Engineering

After reviewing more than 70 applicants, Alpharetta stuck close to home to select its new director of Engineering/Public Works. Pete Sewczwicz got to remove the "interim" from in front of his title, taking on the role permanently.

Sewczwicz replaces the late John Moskaluk, Ph.D., who brought the department from one engineer - himself - to at least a half dozen certified engineers.

Public Works, trees and transportation are among the responsibilities of the department.

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Forsyth names Derrer finalist for county manager post

CUMMING - Doug Derrer has been named the sole finalist for the Forsyth County manager's position by the Board of Commissioners.

Derrer has served as interim county manager since September 2008. He joined Forsyth County as deputy county manager in February 2008. He brings more than 28 years of local government experience to Forsyth County.

Prior to joining Forsyth County, Derrer served as the public works director for Hall County. He has also worked as the public safety director for Hall County, the supervisor for the Hall County Code Enforcement Department, the city manager for Flowery Branch, and a police officer for Miami-Dade County in Florida. He holds Bachelor of Science degrees in public administration and criminal justice.

Responsibilities of the county manager position:

The county manager provides leadership for Forsyth County government by working with the Board of Commissioners and other management to establish long-range goals, strategies, plans and policies; supervises the county's administrative offices and senior management; oversees county programs/activities; interprets county goals/policies; and ensures county administration and senior management are making decisions consistent with the Board of Commissioners' planning and policy initiatives.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Second Roswell home invasion suspect surrenders

The second suspect wanted in the Jan. 8 home invasion at Roswell's Horseshoe Bend subdivision turned himself in Feb. 20, said Roswell police.

Reuben A. Allen, 30, of Lawrenceville was accompanied by his lawyer, said James McGee, a spokesman for the Roswell police department. He was booked into Fulton County Jail the next day on charges of aggravated assault and armed robbery.

McGee — who had earlier called for Allen to give himself up saying it was just a "matter of time" before police caught him — said he has been uncooperative in the investigation, as was the first suspect arrested, 25-year-old Joseph J. Marino of Atlanta.

"He has not been talking to us," said McGee. "Maybe to his lawyer, but not us."

McGee said though Marino was arrested Jan. 15 for drug possession and charged in the home invasion two days later, he did not give police any information on Allen or his whereabouts.

"We had pretty good information from other sources," he said.

Allen has been wanted for questioning in conjunction with the home invasion since Jan. 22, when police sent out his mug shot and warned the public he was considered armed and dangerous. According to Fulton Jail records, Allen also was arrested in September 2008 for hit and run in Sandy Springs, a crime for which he was sentenced in state court.

McGee said having Allen's face and name was a useful piece of information that lead to his capture — but he didn't release much more. He said earlier in the investigation that Horseshoe Bend residents have been integral in finding the two men.

"I don't want to narrow things down," he said. "Everything we got helped us out in this case, including the information from Sandy Springs."

Allen and Marino are accused of waiting for the owner of Sandy Springs' Happy Hocker Pawn Shop outside his Steeple Chase Pointe home Jan. 8. When the man went outside to walk his dogs at 10 p.m., they allegedly pistol whipped him, then tied him, his wife, 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son up in the home.

"They were all roughed up, especially the husband," said McGee at the time of the incident.

The men took an undisclosed amount of money — which police believed was the motive of the crime — and escaped on foot while the family managed to call 911.

McGee said though Marino is facing more charges than Allen currently, it should not be assumed that he was the ringleader or did the beating.

"By the nature of their both being there they are both necessarily culpable," he said.

The family was taken to North Fulton Regional Hospital that night, where they were checked out and released.

McGee said police are being tight lipped because there is still information "out there" integral to the case.

"Even though we've got folks in jail on this case, we're still looking at it," he said. "It's not a done deal."

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