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 www.northfulton.com.

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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. www.bettercourtsforkids.org

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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 www.operationbravo.org.

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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 chezvp@hotmail.com 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: http://fdsys.gpo.gov.

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.

Link: http://fdsys.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=CPD.

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

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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 www.forsythherald.com.

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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 www.remote360.mobi.


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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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