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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