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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fulton Loses First Firefighter To Blaze

Forward: Please keep this hero and his family in your thoughts and prayers.- Magnolia Media staff.

By ERIC STIRGUS, SAEED AHMED The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 05/29/07

On a day when the nation paused to commemorate those who fell in military service, Fulton County Fire Station No. 8 mourned the death of firefighter Felix Roberts, who also died in the line of duty.
Roberts, 41, tried to save a man inside a burning home Monday morning and became the first firefighter killed in the county department's 29-year history.

Roberts was near the end of his 24-hour shift at the station on Old Alabama Road on Monday. One more hour, and he'd be driving to his Douglasville home to spend the holiday with his mother, who had flown in from Tampa, family members said.

Then the emergency call came in shortly before 5 a.m. A two-story red brick home in the Glastonberry subdivision in the new city of Johns Creek was in flames. The city, only five months old, doesn't have a fire department, so five firefighters from Station 8 rushed to the scene.

The couple sleeping inside was awakened by their barking dog. The woman, Mardi Baumann, 50, escaped with her dog and ran to the homes of several neighbors, ringing their doorbells and pleading for help.

Her fiancé, John Callahan, 57, was trapped inside.

Callahan had been a longtime companion of Baumann, who is divorced with three daughters in their 20s. The couple spent a Memorial Day dinner with neighbors Sunday night.
"She rang my bell, but it didn't really wake me up," said neighbor Mike Nuzzo, 41. "Then I heard her screaming at the top of her lungs."

Several residents ran to the house. Nuzzo said he grabbed a sledgehammer from his home and broke down the front door. The heavy smoke forced them to retreat."It was smoke so thick we couldn't get within a couple of feet inside the front door," Nuzzo said. "I could barely see the stairs."

Within minutes, Roberts and the other firefighters arrived. Three searched the house in one direction. Two went the other way. As the two firefighters searched near the kitchen, they were overcome by a sudden burst of heat and smoke known as a "flashover," officials said. It happens when the chemicals released from burning carpets and other synthetics mingle with the fire.
"Think of a giant molotov cocktail, a huge fireball going off right in the middle while the firefighters were in there," said state Fire Safety Commissioner John Oxendine. "The entire house just filled up with flames shooting out of every opening."

The cause of the blaze at the house on Gorham Close hasn't been determined, but Oxendine said candles left burning in the home's screened porch may be to blame.Callahan, officials said, tried to escape the home but apparently became disoriented and died in the blaze. He was later found in a room over the garage.

"Some witnesses said he stuck his head out the window," Oxendine said. "When they told him to jump, he said, 'I don't know where I am.' "Other firefighters pulled the two injured firefighters out the home. Capt. Wayne Gilliard suffered second-degree burns on his hand and was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. Another firefighter, Capt. Anthony Avery, was taken to North Fulton Regional Hospital for chest discomfort. Roberts died at North Fulton Regional Hospital.
Roberts had always wanted to be a firefighter, family members said. A Desert Storm veteran, he joined the Fulton County fire department in February 1999. A department news release described him as a "model employee." He also fought fires for the Sandy Springs fire department.

Monday evening, firefighters at Station 8 did not want to talk about the death. The flag outside stood at half-staff. Bouquets of flowers rested under it. Grieving neighbors had brought them throughout the day.

"As you can imagine, losing a family member is tough. It's a sad time for all of us," said department spokesman Lt. Gregory Chambers. "It's just one of those things we have to get through. But we will, we will."Troy Smith, who was once married to Roberts' sister, said he'd known Roberts for more than 20 years."He was like my little brother, and I was the big brother who looked up to him," said Smith, 46, of Stone Mountain. "I was the one with the big ideas, but he was the one who actually got them done."

Smith, a code enforcement officer, said he also wanted to be a firefighter and had gotten the paperwork to join the department, "but [Felix] was the one who filled it out, passed the test and became one," he said. Roberts leaves behind his mother and four siblings. Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Milton's Charter: What Has Changed

May 25, 2007

From Appennewspapers.com -
When Jan Jones revised Milton's charter, she included several provisions that clarified or changed portions of the bill approved in July of 2006. The changes will have no fiscal impact on the city and mostly deal with modifying or clarifying certain mayoral powers.

1. Term limits for mayor and council:

Mayor and council are now limited to two four-year terms, not including the terms they are currently serving. Before there were no term limits.Jones said she always intended to include term limits, but the hectic pace of last year's passing prohibited her from introducing it in the bill.

2. Mention removed of insurance, retirement, workers' compensation and other employee benefits for mayor and council:

Though it was removed from the charter, the city may still offer these services.

3. Franchise fees deleted:

The charter no longer grants city government the ability to enter into agreements with utility companies regarding franchise fees, an important revenue source for the municipality. However, that does not mean those fees are abolished. Milton, like all cities, may to enter into franchise fee agreements in accordance with state law, so the franchise fees already enacted will stand and $823,000 in current yearly revenue is unaffected.Jones said she wanted the power removed because she believed some members of city government felt obligated to levy the fees, saying they were included in the charter. Also, in the future she doesn't want another city council members "misinterpreting" franchise fee wording in the charter.

4. Powers and duties of the mayor:

A. Council must now confirm all mayoral appointments for council committees to oversee and report on various city departments. Before, council did not approve the appointments.

B. If the mayor's nominations for important city positions, i.e., city manager, city attorney, etc. are rejected by council or not nominated by the mayor, council may offer nominations. Before, the outcome for council rejection was not clear.

C. Removal of mayor's executive aide position (also removed from other areas of the charter). The mayor had indicated he was not going to fill that position.

D. City manager: The mayor's suggestion for the city manager's initial compensation must now be approved by city council.

E. Boards and commissions: All boards and commissions must be seven members, nominated by the City Council and the mayor. Each appointment must be from the council member's geographic district, but the mayor's nominee may be from anywhere in the city limits. Mayor and City Council had passed their own ordinance with the same wording, and now the charter is in line.

Speed Limits / Community Input Sought On Speed in City

The City of Milton is seeking citizen input for its annual speed limit and radar permit update with the Georgia Department of Transportation. Please call 678.242.2500. Be sure to include:

Your name, phone number, address
Road name
Specific road segment (start/end points)
Current speed and desired speed

Also be sure to cite any specific concerns, incidents. Relevant paperwork or photographs are extremely helpful. Neighborhood groups and petitions are acceptable. The deadline for citizen comments is July 1. Staff will review and compile the information before submitting the annual revision to GDOT. GDOT will review the information, analyze it based on engineering standards and related state laws, and issue a revised radar permit to the City of Milton.

It should be noted that only one true radar permit exists in the state and the city is actually a “lessee.” Therefore, GDOT has ultimate authority on this matter, especially regarding state routes. Cities and counties are afforded annual update applications.

Watering Restrictions In The City

Fulton County, which provides water service to the City of Milton, is adhering to the level-two drought response declaration issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. That means all city residents must abide by those restrictions as well. City code enforcement officers will cite violators. To find out more about these changes, click the link below.
http://ww2.co.fulton.ga.us/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=465&Itemid=266

Coffee With Joe A Hot Topic

Mayor Joe Lockwood (above right) chats with a prospective city resident, one of about 15 people who attended the first “Mayor’s Coffee” May 22. Most of the questions that the mayor fielded had to do with growth and related topics such as development, transportation and traffic. Citizens also offered comments about recent changes to the city’s charter as well as compliments regarding the city’s Web site and other communication activities.The young resident, below left, didn’t have a question for the mayor, but he sure enjoyed the refreshments. The mayor is holding the informal discussion sessions 9-10 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in the council chamber at City Hall. The next session is June 19. For more information, call 678.242.2500.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mayor Signs Council Resolution to Perdue

By Doug Nurse Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Almost a week after approval, Mayor Joe Lockwood signed a City Council resolution to Gov. Sonny Perdue asking the governor to approve changes to the city charter.
Lockwood opposed the changes, and sent a letter on May 14 stating his opposition to changes to the city’s governing document, which he feels undermines the authority of the mayor. On May 17, by a 4-3 vote, the City Council overrode Lockwood’s objections and effectively countermanded his letter by passing the resolution.

In the last legislative session, the General Assembly, at the behest of state Rep. Jan Jones, changed the the city’s charter. The bill struck provisions allowing collection of franchise fees, diluted some of the mayor’s authority in making appointments and hiring staff, set term limits, and removed language allowing benefits to the mayor and council.

A governor’s office spokesman said on Wednesday that Perdue had not signed the legislation changing the charter. City staff on Wednesday emailed a copy of the resolution to Perdue and sent the original by courier. Supporting the resolution were council members Karen Thurman, who sponsored the resolution; Rick Mohrig; Bill Lusk; and Neal O’Brien. Opposed were Mayor Joe Lockwood, and council members Julie Zahner Bailey and Tina D’Aversa Williams.

After the vote on May 17, Lockwood said he didn’t anticipate any further action on his part.
“I think we’re done,” he said. “it’s up to the governor now. We’ll move forward and do the best we can with what we’ve got.”State Rep. Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) also weighed in with a letter of support to the mayor and council supporting Jones.

The governor’s office has been circumspect in discussing the controversy.
The governor will decide whether to sign based on its merits, said Bert Brantley from Perdue’s office. He takes into account all points of view, and he will consider every piece of information he has.

Lockwood and his supporters said they weren’t aware of the changes until April 24 after they had been passed. They also argued the changes weakened the position of the mayor. Other council members countered the changes were minor.

The council debate at times was sharp-edged. The writing of Thurman’s resolution wasn’t finished until just before the council meeting, prompting Zahner Bailey to decry the lack of “professional courtesy” by Thurman and by Jones for essentially ambushing the council.
Thurman countered that there wasn’t time to follow the normal procedure in presenting items to the council. Perdue’s deadline for signing bills is the end of the month. The next City Council meeting is June 7.

Thurman also faulted Lockwood for sending the letter to the governor without consulting the council first. Lockwood explained that he talked with a majority of the council and had come away with the understanding they agreed with him.
Lockwood said that when the governor’s staff called him for his reaction on Monday, he told them he wasn’t happy. Write a letter, they said. He did, asking Perdue to veto Jones’ House Bill 811.

Lockwood said he was concerned about changes in the appointment of the city staff. Currently, the mayor appoints and the council ratifies. Under the change, should the council reject the mayor’s nominees, they can appoint on their own. Lockwood said that’s a major change; Council member Lusk said it was not.

“I didn’t know this was supposed to be a power struggle,” Lusk said. “We have equal votes. We are all equal up here. We’re not talking about something earth-shaking that will change the course of human events.”

The mayor also was upset about changes to a provision governing the appointment of council members to City Council committees. Before, the mayor made the appointments. Now the council members have to approve them. Lockwood said the change could make it difficult to get members to serve on politically treacherous or boring committees.

Jones, a Republican from Milton, sponsored the legislation creating the city in 2006. She said the recent changes were simply a matter of fine-tuning the city’s charter. Jones supported Lockwood’s opponent for mayor.

Jones said in an earlier interview she told Lockwood and other council members what she was going to do in her legislation twice starting in November.“I’m surprised and puzzled at the mayor’s response and his strong reaction,” Jones said. “I didn’t ask Fulton County for approval to form the city to begin with. The majority of the City Council supports it. What would the change have been if they had voted on it? I ascribe this to newness and inexperience in government.”

She said that some changes in the charter are symbolic - state law allows the city to collect franchise fees and provides for benefits to the mayor and council. She just didn’t want the council to be able to use the charter, which she sponsored, as justification for policies she doesn’t agree with.

Jones and Lockwood have debated the collection of franchise fees in a series of letters in a local newspaper. Lockwood said they’re a necessary part of the budget, and at times has said the charter allows it. Jones is opposed to franchise fees.

The state allows the city to collect franchise fees from utilities for use of public rights of way, and those fees are passed on to consumers. Some Milton residents - as Sandy Springs residents did before them - objected to the fees as essentially new taxes, calling them a breach of pre-city promises that taxes would not go up if the voters approved cityhood in a referendum.
Council member Tina D’Aversa Williams said Jones is meddling and the mayor is justified in feeling aggrieved.

“My concern is that we became a city so that we could have greater local control,” D’Aversa Williams said. “But now we have changes without our input. I question what was the motivation behind it.”

But Council member Neal O’Brien said he believes Jones acted within her authority.
“I concur with what she did,”; he said. “It’s within the realm of her authority. The legislature has a signficant role in managing the law we operate under. Our job is to operate under that law.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Milton Council Counters Mayor's Plea for Veto

By DOUG NURSE / The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 05/24/07

Over the Milton mayor's objections, the City Council effectively countermanded a letter he sent to the governor asking that changes to the city charter be vetoed.

By a 4-3 vote, the council on May 17 approved a resolution that instead asked Gov. Sonny Perdue to sign legislation that changes the founding document for the city. The charter establishes the city and sets rules for its operation.

Among the changes are the addition of term limits — limiting the mayor and members of the council to two four-year terms. Supporting the resolution were council members Karen Thurman, who sponsored the resolution; Rick Mohrig; Bill Lusk; and Neal O'Brien. Opposed were Mayor Joe Lockwood and council members Julie Zahner Bailey and Tina D'Aversa Williams.

In the last legislative session, the General Assembly, at the behest of state Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), changed the city's charter in a little-publicized bill. The legislation removed provisions allowing collection of franchise fees, diluted some of the mayor's authority to make appointments and hire staff and set term limits, and removed language allowing benefits for the mayor and council.

After the vote, Lockwood said he didn't anticipate any further action on his part.
"I think we're done," he said. "It's up to the governor now. We'll move forward and do the best we can with what we've got."

State Rep. Mark Burkhalter (R-Alpharetta) also weighed in with a letter to the mayor and council in support of Jones.The governor's office has been circumspect in discussing the controversy. "The governor will decide whether to sign based on its merits," said Bert Brantley, spokesman for the governor's office. "He takes into account all points of view."

Lockwood and his supporters said they weren't aware of the changes until April 24, after they had been passed. They also argued that the changes weakened the position of the mayor.
Other council members countered that the changes were minor.

The council debate at times was sharp-edged. The writing of Thurman's resolution wasn't finished until just before the council meeting, which prompted Zahner Bailey to decry the lack of "professional courtesy" by Thurman and by Jones for essentially ambushing the council.
Thurman countered that there wasn't time to follow the normal procedure in presenting items to the council. Perdue's deadline for signing bills is the end of the month. The next City Council meeting is June 7.

Thurman also faulted Lockwood for sending his letter to the governor without consulting the council first. Lockwood explained that he talked with a majority of the council members and had come away with the understanding that they agreed with him.
Lockwood said that when the governor's staff called him for his reaction on Monday, he told them he wasn't happy. Write a letter, they said. He did, asking Perdue to veto Jones' House Bill 811.

Safety In Numbers for Milton

City equips three fire stations with new advanced-technology vehicles
Published on: 05/24/07
Doug Nurse / AJC.com

The city of Milton has a government and a police department. And it is now the proud owner of three fire stations — with a fire department and equipment to staff them.
The fire stations are located on Arnold Mill Road, Thompson Road and Hickory Flat Road.

Demographics / Gender: 37 males (97%), 1 female (3%)

Race: 35 white (92%), 3 minority (8%)

Where they came from:Cherokee County (2)DeKalb County (2)City of Alpharetta (1)City of Austell (1)City of College Park (2)Clayton County (1) Dawson County (1)Douglas County (2)Fannin County (1)Forsyth County (1)Fulton County (18)Hall County (2) Lumpkin County (1)Paulding County (3)

Technology components"In car" (fire engine) laptop computers Dell Rugged laptopRecord Management SystemPre-plans and inspection records Verizon Wireless Connection MSA thermal imaging camerasMulti-gas detection instrumentsLED lighting systems

Not only does the city of Milton have some of the newest, most technologically advanced public safety vehicles in the state, but one could also make the case that it has the best-looking fleet.
To replace the three trucks departing with Fulton County, the city recently purchased three pumpers with 750-gallon water capacity, compared with the typical 500 gallons. The pumpers also have a shorter wheelbase that allows the vehicles greater maneuverability. They are equipped with two chain saws for fighting brush fires and cleaning up after storms.

In a few weeks, the fire department will have two additional vehicles in its fleet – a ladder truck, known as a "quint," with a 75-foot articulating aerial ladder, and a Ford F250 4X4 extended-bed wildland-brush truck with a 300-foot forestry hose and 100-gallon water tank.

State House Update

Friends and Neighbors-

The 2007 legislative session ended April 20 becoming one of the longest sessions in Georgia history. Its length stemmed from uncertainty over federal funding for PeachCare, a mean-tested insurance program for underinsured children. The Governor and Georgia General Assembly were awaiting Congressional action on funding before finalizing the state's budget.
Session was spread out over 40 official days as determined by Georgia's constitution. The 180 Representatives and 56 Senators spent the intervening days working in committees and on the budget.

The legislature passed 22 percent fewer bills than the previous year. Fewer bills usually mean fewer regulations on Georgians, which is good. Overregulation can be expensive and burdensome to the individual and businesses.

GENERAL BILLS

In all, 208 general bills passed both houses. General bills have statewide applicability. I authored two general bills that gained passage. The Governor signed HB 107 requiring utility companies disclose and itemize franchise taxes on customers' bills. In current law, franchise taxes may be levied by cities on wired telephone, cable, electricity, natural gas and garbage. The taxes vary from 3 - 5 percent. The bill will bring greater transparency for taxes paid by citizens.

I explained last week about the amendment to SB 72 that I sponsored through HB 208. It makes local school councils parent-majority. The Governor has signed the bill.
Next update, I'll detail a number of the more significant bills that passed the Georgia General Assembly.

LOCAL BILLS

A total of 187 local bills passed the Georgia General Assembly pertaining to specific jurisdictions. I passed five bills affecting Roswell and Milton. Both the Roswell and Milton City Councils voted to officially support all five local bills.

By state constitution, only the state legislature can modify or expand cities', counties' and school boards' powers. The legislature, in fact, exercised this authority last year regarding Fulton County. It altered the county's powers by passing HB 1470, which allowed the creation of the city of Milton (Fulton County passed a resolution opposing the bill).

HB 810 and HB 812 settle annexation border disputes between the two cities avoiding potential costly litigation. The bills provide for final borders between the two cities giving first consideration to the wishes of the residents. HB 809 and HB 813 grant Milton the authority to pay for long-term capitol projects with bonds (such as parkland improvements) out of current revenues. By exercising this authority, the city would be able to more quickly offer needed recreation services to residents.

HB 811 clarifies and corrects Milton's original charter, which I authored last year. As I committed during the cityhood campaign, HB 811 provides for city council term limits. The council will be limited to two four-year terms in addition to partial terms. Alpharetta has the same term limits. The legislation also eliminates a mandated position in the charter as requested by an earlier city council vote. It assures consistency by providing for the same geographic representation of appointed committees as the original charter requires for city council members.

LOOKING FORWARD

During the summer and fall, I'll work on charter school and tax reform legislation. Tomorrow, I leave for Tallahassee to meet with Florida legislators and learn from their successes in raising academic achievement and customer satisfaction through charter schools.
I filed HB 881 on the last day of session, which is patterned after Florida legislation. If passed next year, it would lead to bold charter school reform and more public school choice for Georgians.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that parents may elect to send their children to. Charter schools tend to be smaller, more differentiated and oftentimes more specialized than regular public schools. One example is Connected Academy High School, which opens in August to serve up to 500 11th and 12th graders in the former Milton High School facility.

I authored HR 12 this session, a state constitutional amendment that would enable Milton County to be re-created (Fulton County also opposes this legislation, excepting Commissioner Lynne Riley). Because it is a constitutional amendment, it will not be discussed in House Committee until next year during the year of the General election. After the funding is finalized, Rep. Mark Burkhalter and I will initiate a University study to evaluate its impact. More about this in a future update.

IN CLOSING

I'll send out a final update soon on the 2007 legislative session and list 30 significant bills that passed the Georgia General Assembly. I'll also touch on several bills that did not move forward, but remain "alive" for next year.

Thank you for the privilege of serving your family in the Georgia General Assembly. As summer begins, I wish you a safe and relaxing season.

Jan Jones
State Representative - District 46Serving northwest Fulton, including Milton, Roswell, Alpharetta and Mountain Park

Monday, May 21, 2007

New Schools Mean Noise, Broken Promises

May 16, 2007 / Appen Newspapers / Milton Herald / Letters To The Editor

It is not surprising that the Fulton Board of Education announces as a done deal the purchase of land for a new high school in the city of Milton ("Deja vu for high school site," April 11, 2007).That is the way the BOE operates – in total secret. For nearby residents of the new high school, middle school and elementary school that will be built at the intersections of Birmingham Highway, Wood Road and Freemanville Road, I say: "Hold onto your hats."You are about to engage in the most frustrating process you can ever imagine.

The BOE will soon schedule "Community Meetings" which they will bill as "input sessions."What they don't tell you is that they don't care what your input is, because they have already made their plans, and they are not going to change them. They will tell you about traffic improvements that will be implemented, but they won't tell you that they have absolutely no authority make any changes in regards to traffic.If you attempt to sue the BOE and then negotiate a settlement, they will agree to concessions, and once you withdraw your lawsuit they will renege on every promise they made.

Your complaints will fall on deaf ears, and you will be characterized as "small pockets of complaints."Are you interested in preserving the quiet life? Those mega-speakers in the football stadium will blast rap music and blaring announcements at decibel levels that are akin to listening to a jack hammer at a distance of 50 feet.

The BOE will tell you that there are only five football games in the Fall. But, what they don't tell you is that there are five varsity games, five JV games, and five freshman games. And, they won't tell you that the stadium and the sound system will also be used for girls and boys soccer, track, lacrosse, band competitions, and whatever else they can come up with.Your only hope is to band together and stop this project in its tracks. If you don't, you will regret it every day.

JOSE CREAMER / North Fulton

Property Owners Receiving Reassessments From Fulton

Process upon which tax bills figured not related to city’s incorporation

The Fulton County tax assessor’s office recently mailed out 170,000 revaluation notices to property owners across the county, including those in the City of Milton, notifying them of changes in the assessed value of their property upon which their tax bills are based.

Reassessments are meant to keep the fair market value of a property up to date. The Fulton tax assessor’s office conducts reassessments based on a rolling schedule. The recently mailed notices are not related to the City of Milton’s incorporation in any way, although the city does use those figures from the Fulton tax digest to bill its taxes to Milton property owners.

Property owners may appeal their property assessment if they feel it does not accurately reflect the fair market value. Appeals must be made to the Fulton County Board of Assessors; the contact number is 404.224.0102.

If an appeal is filed, the property owner is still required to pay 85 percent of the property tax bill pending a decision on the appeal. Once a decision is made, the property owner should forward a copy of it to the City Treasurer’s office, where the City of Milton’s records will be changed as appropriate per the appeal decision. The current tax bill will be finalized once the changes have been made.

Property taxes are calculated on 40 percent of the property’s fair market value; that amount is known as the assessed value. So, for example, a property with a fair market value of $200,000 would have an assessed value of $80,000.

From the assessed value, all applicable homestead exemptions are subtracted. Milton has a $15,000 basic homestead exemption, which would reduce the assessed value to $65,000. The assessed value is then multiplied by the millage rate set by the taxing entity (city, county, board of education) to determine the amount of property tax owed. A mill equals one dollar of tax for every $1,000 in assessed value. The City of Milton’s millage rate as established by its charter is 4.731 mills – that rate cannot be increased without voter approval in a referendum. Based on the $200,000 property in the example with an assessed value of $65,000 after homestead exemptions, the tax bill would be $307.51 (4.731 x 65).

The city will mail out property tax bills on or before Sept. 1 each year. Payment is due by Oct. 31 each year. For more information, call 678.242.2500.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Milton Dispute In Governor's Hands

By Doug Nurse Thursday, May 17, 2007, 12:52 PM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Over the Milton mayor’s objections, the City Council Thursday effectively countermanded a letter he sent to the governor asking that changes to the city charter be vetoed.By a 4-3 vote, the council approved a resolution that instead asked Gov. Sonny Perdue to sign legislation that changes the founding document of the city. The charter establishes the city and sets rules for its operation.

Supporting the resolution were council members Karen Thurman, who sponsored the resolution; Rick Mohrig; Bill Lusk; and Neal O’Brien. Opposed were Mayor Joe Lockwood, and council members Julie Zahner Bailey and Tina D’Aversa Williams.

In the last legislative session, the General Assembly, at the behest of state Rep. Jan Jones, changed the the city’s charter. The bill struck provisions allowing collection of franchise fees, diluted some of the mayor’s authority in making appointments and hiring staff, set term limits, and removed language allowing benefits to the mayor and council.

After the vote, Lockwood said he didn’t anticipate any further action on his part.“I think we’re done,” he said. “it’s up to the governor now. We’ll move forward and do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

State Rep. Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) also weighed in with a letter of support to the mayor and council supporting Jones. The governor’s office has been circumspect in discussing the controversy.

The governor will decide whether to sign based on its merits, said Bert Brantley, spokesman for the governor’s office. He takes into account all points of view, and he will consider every piece of information he has.

Lockwood and his supporters said they weren’t aware of the changes until April 24 after they had been passed. They also argued the changes weakened the position of the mayor. Other council members countered the changes were minor.

The council debate at times was sharp-edged. The writing of Thurman’s resolution wasn’t finished until just before the council meeting, prompting Zahner Bailey to decry the lack of “professional courtesy” by Thurman and by Jones for essentially ambushing the council.
Thurman countered that there wasn’t time to follow the normal procedure in presenting items to the council. Perdue’s deadline for signing bills is the end of the month. The next City Council meeting is June 7.

Thurman also faulted Lockwood for sending the letter to the governor without consulting the council first. Lockwood explained that he talked with a majority of the council and had come away with the understanding they agreed with him.Lockwood said that when the governor’s staff called him for his reaction on Monday, he told them he wasn’t happy. Write a letter, they said. He did, asking Perdue to veto Jones’ House Bill 811.

Lockwood said he was concerned about changes in the appointment of the city staff. Currently, the mayor appoints and the council ratifies. Under the change, should the council reject the mayor’s nominees, they can appoint on their own. Lockwood said that’s a major change; Council member Lusk said it was not.

“I didn’t know this was supposed to be a power struggle,” Lusk said. “We have equal votes. We are all equal up here. We’re not talking about something earth-shaking that will change the course of human events.”The mayor also was upset about changes to a provision governing the appointment of council members to City Council committees. Before, the mayor made the appointments. Now the council members have to approve them. Lockwood said the change could make it difficult to get members to serve on politically treacherous or boring committees.
Jones, a Republican from Milton, sponsored the legislation creating the city in 2006. She said the recent changes were simply a matter of fine-tuning the city’s charter. Jones supported Lockwood’s opponent for mayor.

Jones said in an earlier interview she told Lockwood and other council members what she was going to do in her legislation twice starting in November.“I’m surprised and puzzled at the mayor’s response and his strong reaction,” Jones said. “I didn’t ask Fulton County for approval to form the city to begin with. The majority of the City Council supports it. What would the change have been if they had voted on it? I ascribe this to newness and inexperience in government.”

She said that some changes in the charter are symbolic - state law allows the city to collect franchise fees and provides for benefits to the mayor and council. She just didn’t want the council to be able to use the charter, which she sponsored, as justification for policies she doesn’t agree with.

Jones and Lockwood have debated the collection of franchise fees in a series of letters in a local newspaper. Lockwood said they’re a necessary part of the budget, and at times has said the charter allows it. Jones is opposed to franchise fees.

The state allows the city to collect franchise fees from utilities for use of public rights of way, and those fees are passed on to consumers. Some Milton residents - as Sandy Springs residents did before them - objected to the fees as essentially new taxes, calling them a breach of pre-city promises that taxes would not go up if the voters approved cityhood in a referendum.
Council member Tina D’Aversa Williams said Jones is meddling and the mayor is justified in feeling aggrieved.

“My concern is that we became a city so that we could have greater local control,” D’Aversa Williams said. “But now we have changes without our input. I question what was the motivation behind it.”But Council member Neal O’Brien said he believes Jones acted within her authority.
“I concur with what she did,”; he said. “It’s within the realm of her authority. The legislature has a signficant role in managing the law we operate under. Our job is to operate under that law.”

Thursday, May 17, 2007

State House Update

Friends and Neighbors-

Few education-related bills pass the Georgia General Assembly each year. Since they affect 1.5 million public school students, it's good to be thoughtful and deliberate when it comes to structural change.

Nine education bills passed the House and Senate this session and await the Governor's signature. To be accurate, fewer than nine individual bills passed after several were grouped together during the final days of session.

I'd like to share information on HB 208 regarding local school councils, which I authored. The bill was merged with several bills and passed as Senate Bill 72. Next update, I'll also write about other education bills that passed.

I wrote the following comments as background for the Senate Majority Leader, Tommie Williams. He carried the bill in the Senate and amended it onto his bill, SB 72.

What does HB 208 do?

It changes the make-up of local school councils to make them parent-majority with a parent chair. Presently, all 2083 Georgia public schools are required to have a local school council.

What is the role of local school councils by state law?

They are advisory-only bodies and charged to "act as a link between the school and the community, and encourage the participation of parents." By law, they provide advice and make recommendations to the principal, local board of education and superintendent. They may provide advice on any matter related to student achievement and school improvement, including the school's budget, school board policies, facilities and how to involve parents.
The local school board is charged with considering councils' recommendations and responding to its written recommendations.

Who supported or objected to the bill in the House and what was the House vote?

- The bill passed the House 147-14 and passed the Senate 42 - 3.
- The state PTA spoke in favor of the bill because it encourages parental involvement. The School Board Assn. did not comment.
- The Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Metro Chamber supported the bill.

Why change local school councils again?

The bill recognizes parents and their children have the greatest stake in public education. It gives parents an increased, although measured, voice, which I believe will lead to improved customer satisfaction. The bill honors the education partnership among parents, principals and teachers by retaining all three on councils.

The bill gives councils a more independent role in their advisory capacity to allow for more meaningful feedback. It assures a majority are non-employees of the school board. A degree of independence matters because councils are charged with providing input to schools, superintendents and school boards.

HB 208 creates the only local parent-majority organization in state law authorized to provide input to schools, school boards and superintendents. (The PTA serves a separate, although, important role in schools. Schools, superintendents and school boards are not required to consider PTA recommendations. Additionally, the PTA's mission is distinctly different from local school councils as determined by its national board.)

Principals and teachers already have a significant role/voice in public schools by virtue of their positions. Principals manage individual schools and make numerous decisions regarding them. Principals and teacher representatives serve on other local education advisory councils that provide input to their respective schools and school board. Most school systems have principal advisory councils, teacher grade level chairs and teacher advisory councils.

In Closing

I'll send out another update on the recently-ended session shortly with a summary of key legislation that passed, including a bill I authored requiring disclosure and itemization of city franchise taxes on customer bills. If you're interested, more background on local school councils follows below.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve your family and House District 46. It is my privilege.

Best-

Jan Jones
State Representative - District 46
(Serving northwest Fulton, including Milton, Roswell, Alpharetta and Mountain Park)

History and makeup of Local School Councils:

2000 - HB 1187 passed creating local school councils (LSCs) as part of Gov. Roy Barnes education package.
2001 - Each school system was required to assure implementation of a LSC in one high school, one middle school and one elementary school
2002 - Half of all schools within a system required to have councils in place
2003 - All schools required to have a LSC
2000 - Guidelines for councils in HB 1187 - Seven members comprised of 2 parents, 2 teachers, one principal and 2 school business partners (one selected by the school board and one selected by other council members). Councils were required to meet 12 times per year. Principal designated as chair.
2004 - HB 1190 (Governor Perdue's omnibus education bill) changed local school councils in numerous ways. Agreed to by Democrat-majority House and Republican-majority Senate.

- Changed membership from 7 members to a minimum of 7 members. The required 7 members included 2 parents, 2 teachers, one principal and 2 school business partners (both selected by the council). The school board no longer selected a business partner. Additional members could be added through by-law changes as long as the number of parents and teachers was equal. The number of times councils were required to meet dropped to a minimum of four times per year. The principal no longer was designated to serve as chair.

- Governor Perdue's original education bill called for parent-majority councils (same wording as in HB 208), but the provision was eliminated in the House Education Committee.
2007 - HB 208 (Amended to Senate Bill 72) - Keeps the 7-member minimum, but changes the council composition to 4 parents, 2 teachers and one principal. Other council members may be added through by-laws changes, but parents must remain the majority. A parent designated as chair.

- Two of the parent members will be business persons. The term "business persons" is left undefined because of the wide disparity among Georgia's 2083 public schools. The schools differ in demographic diversity, system wealth, average household wealth, and in student population size. For example, public schools vary in student population from 32 to 3466 students. If an individual council chooses, it may further refine the definition of business persons as it applies to parent members or other council members added from the local community.

- The bill removes a conflicting sentence in current law that requires business members (of local school councils) to be school business partners. By removing the sentence, councils may add members from the local business community through bylaw changes, including from the chamber, retired business persons and others. Some schools have few school business partners and have found it difficult to find individuals willing to serve in this capacity (five large north Fulton high schools share the same Publix regional manager as one of their school business partners).

- Finally, the bill gives local school councils direction on how to implement the changes in membership, including a timeframe. As positions currently held by school business partners come up for election, they will be replaced with parent members.

Sparring Factions In Milton Turn To Perdue

By DOUG NURSE / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 05/17/07

Political jousting in the city of Milton has spilled over and roped in the governor. The latest sparring started when Republican state Rep. Jan Jones engineered changes to the city charter in the recent legislative session, including term limits for the mayor and six council seats.

Mayor Joe Lockwood has cried foul, claiming he was blindsided by the changes, many of which he said reduce his authority.

After the governor's office on Monday asked Lockwood to weigh in on the changes, he wrote a letter asking Gov. Sonny Perdue to veto House Bill 811, sponsored by Jones. Several members of the council now are sending letters of their own asking Perdue not to veto the charter changes. The governor's office was circumspect in discussing the controversy.

"The governor will decide whether to sign based on its merits," said Bert Brantley, spokesman for the governor's office. "He takes into account all points of view." Jones authored the legislation creating the city in 2006. Jones, who supported Lockwood's opponent for mayor last year, said the recent changes were simply a matter of fine-tuning the city's charter or its constitution and bylaws.

Among the changes in House Bill 811 were provisions taking away some of the mayor's authority to appoint City Council committees.The bill limits the mayor and City Council members to two four-year terms. Jones said she was "surprised and puzzled" by Lockwood's objections and said she has the support of a majority of the City Council.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Your Milton, GA Firemen!

Mayor Joe Lockwood swore in 40 men and women as the city’s first firefighters on May 11. The fire service assumes operations from Fulton County on Friday, May 18 at 10:01 a.m.

Coffee With Joe

Morning series another opportunity to ask questions, voice ideas

Mayor Joe Lockwood invites Milton residents with some free time in the morning and questions on their minds to stop by City Hall on the third Tuesday of each month beginning May 22 from 9 to 10 a.m. for some coffee and discussion.“Keeping the lines of communication open with our community is a top priority for this administration, and this is another way to hear what’s on residents’ minds, answer any questions and listen to any ideas they may have to offer,” Lockwood said.

The “Mayor’s Coffee” sessions are an ideal opportunity for seniors, stay-at-home moms, those without Internet or e-mail access, or anyone who is unable to attend evening meetings to have their voice heard, the mayor added.The calendar for the rest of 2007 is as follows: May 22, June 19, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 18, Oct. 16, Nov. 20 and Dec. 18. The sessions are held in the council chambers. Milton City Hall is located in Suite 107 of the Deerfield Professional Centre, 13000 Parkway.

Friday, May 11, 2007

King's Ridge gearing up for grand opening

by Jason Wright / Appen Newspapers / Milton Herald

May 10, 2007

There's a reason Kings Ridge Christian School doesn't look like your typical "brick box" institution, says headmaster C. David Rhodes III and director of admissions Lisa McGuire."This is more of a home for our students and their families," said McGuire. "We're a family here."

So it goes for the first phase of the $30 million school at the corner of Cogburn and Bethany Bend roads. Though the finishing touches are being put on the school, open house for the upper schools – those which educate middle and high school students – was held May 5 at the new location.Rhodes said the building is only the first phase of Kings Ridge's plans for their 70 acre campus, 26 of which have been developed. Next year construction will start on a $6 million, 36,000-square-foot field house for the upper schools. After that will come another $27 million building for the upper schools.

The current building will then house the lower school. So popular areKing's Ridge's programs that when the school does open, it will be past capacity, said Rhodes."We're having to turn students away. We just don't have enough room," he said.McGuire, who has been with the school since its inception, said the students that do attend will be situated in 30 class rooms – complete with windows. Because the school is now housed in a former grocery store on Ga. 9, the students can't see outside the building."They're very excited to have their windows," she said.

Rhodes, a 28 year veteran of Darlington, a private school in Rome, said everything from the planning to construction has been a community and family affair."Our contractors, New South and Brassfield and Gory, have been amazing to work with," he said. It's really in the details here – the pride and ownership they took in construction has been great."


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Council Considers Traffic-Related Measures

Community Services Director Greg Wilson presented two traffic-related measures to Milton City Council April 26. The first outlines a proposed right-of-way ordinance that provides specifics on traffic control, speed limits, truck routes, construction standards and much more. The second details the department’s policy regarding issues such as traffic calming devices, road abandonment and road privatization. The ordinance and policies will go before council for a first reading at the May 17 regular meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

100,000 Hits Contest Winner Travis Allen

By Anderson Lee; Accessmilton.com

Late Tuesday / May 8th, life long Milton resident Travis Allen was the first email received after Accessmilton.com passed 100,000 hits since activation. "I sent them a few emails since the contest was announced. I had a feeling I might get lucky," Mr. Allen was quoted as saying. "I just wanted that hat!"

The hat referenced is a green and tan Port Authority hat with a running horse logo created by Magnolia Media Founder Tim Enloe in the Fall of 2005 and "MILTON, GEORGIA" stitched along the bottom. The hat wasn't the only prize to be had. Travis also won a "MILTON, GEORGIA" license tag as well.

For those who didn't win, both items are available for sale here -> http://www.accessmilton.com/OnlineStore.php

Monday, May 07, 2007

State House Update From Jan Jones

Friends and Neighbors-

I spend most of my time during the legislative session working on the state budget as a vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Reading the hyperbole about the ongoing budget dispute can cause you to wonder what's really going on. With an inside view of the budget, I'd like to give you a straightforward explanation.

As you may know, Governor Perduevetoed the Amended 2007 budget, which the House and Senate passed unanimously in both chambers in April. We expect to be called back into special session any time now. I guess you could say we have differences of opinion, but differences that will be resolved.

A budget (or any bill for that matter) must be approved by the House, Senate and Governor.
During each session (lasting from January to April), the state legislature approves two budgets. The first, which is easier and shorter to construct, is called the Amended Budget (also call revised), which I'll say more about below.

The second budget, referred to as the Big Budget, projects revenues for the next fiscal year (which runs from July to June) and allocates funds for all state agencies. The legislature approved the Big Budget just before session ended, and it awaits the Governor's signature.
When session adjourns each April, no significant changes can be made to the Big Budget until legislators return to session the following January. After the subsequent session convenes, legislators compare actual revenues and actual costs with what they projected and make adjustments accordingly in the Amended Budget. The Governor vetoed the Amended 2007 budget.

I sent the following email to House legislators to provide background and perspective regarding the 2007 Amended state budget, which concerns spending for 54 remaining days in the current fiscal cycle ending June 30. If you're interested, the information will shed more light on the issue. (See below)

I fully expect the budget differences will be sorted out shortly. Sometimes, it simply takes awhile to choose between good and "gooder." And I'm confident the Governor and the legislature will find consensus in their conviction to do what is best for Georgia.

Best-

Jan Jones / Representative - District 46
_________________________________________________________________________________House Colleagues -I'd like to share thoughts on the 2007 Amended budget.Each morning, we awaken to another news article on the Amended budget written from an outsider's perspective. Each article reflects a narrow slice of what happened, what can happen and what should happen. Let's remain focused on the latter. Our responsibility is to find the "should" that reflects the best interests of Georgia.Don't lose sight of the House's and Senate's overwhelming vote of approval for the Amended budget just weeks ago. Both houses agreed the budget was the best compromise to best meet the needs of Georgia. What could have changed in these brief weeks to change that conclusion? I don't know.The Amended budget is not perfect, but I am proud of the progress it represents for Georgia. We voted for a good Amended 2007 budget. When viewed in concert with the 2008 budget, we met the competing needs of Georgia efficiently and adequately.When I hear people say it needs to be changed this way or that, I am reminded of the old phrase "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Surplus
Don't lose sight that the Amended 2007 budget further cuts government down to size by returning one-time dollars back to the taxpayers instead of spending them. Of course, defining what is surplus requires subjective and objective analysis. And you and I may conclude differently on any one item, but I expect we would agree on most.
It's important to recall the funds we voted to return to taxpayers aren't statutorily available to meet future operational needs for our colleges, public schools or Peachcare/Medicaid plans. These funds must be expended or rebated or saved before June 30, less than two months from now.

Without going back over who-shot-who and who-scored-first details of the budget process (because Georgians don't care about the details and neither should we), the fact is that 236 legislators voted not to spend all the money or retain all the money. We voted to send the money back to the people.

Two proposals for the $142 million surplus

Two alternative proposals were put on the table late during the fast and furious session - placing surplus funds into the Revenue Shortfall Reserve (RSR), or Rainy Day Fund, or giving tax dollars back to taxpayers. The Conference Committee and, subsequently, the House and Senate agreed to only one proposal.

Revenue Shortfall Reserve (RSR)

At $792 million, the RSR is higher than it has ever been in Georgia history. Exceeding 4 percent, the percentage of the overall budget represented by the RSR is higher than it was in the 2003 budget when the RSR stood at 2 percent ($260 million). Not many years ago, the maximum allowed reserve was 3 percent. The legislature voted in 2005 to permit the reserve to rise up to 10 percent, although 4 percent is considered "full." Only 4 percent is protected from appropriation, and can be spent only during a recession.When we voted to approve the Amended 2007 budget on April 11, actual revenues were on target to meet the 2007 budget revenue estimate.As an aside, even though the reserve exceeds 4 percent, I support increasing the reserve amount over future years.

Concerns Expressed

The Governor and some others have expressed concerns that several programs are not adequately funded in the Amended budget to meet Georgians' expectations. Our Governor has indicated we need a "do-over." With the greatest respect and admiration for our Governor, I regretfully disagree. I only speak for myself and within the context of the level of information I have as a citizen legislator that has worked on the budget since January.
Sufficient discretion exists for the Governor, within agencies, through the Fiscal Affairs Committee, and with the Emergency Fund to soften or eliminate any modest shortfalls. Whatever modifications need to be made do not appear to rise to the level to call 236 legislators back into a special session to re-work the 2007 Amended budget.

What holes?

1. In particular, it has been suggested District Attorneys won't be able to make payroll June 1 through June 30 without additional funds. The Judicial branch requested $2.36 million more for District Attorneys than was approved by the House and Senate. In the event the department needs additional funding this fiscal year (until June 30), the Governor has an Emergency Fund with a $3.46 million balance that could be partially applied to this.

2. You've heard adult literacy teachers will lose their jobs and illiterate adults will go untaught. This is not accurate. With over a $400 million budget and a history of millions in carryover (unused) federal or tuition funds (which don't lapse yearly), the Department of Technical Education (DTAE) can cover the $1.8 million needed to pay adult literacy teachers through June. In addition, extra funds were included in the 2008 budget to cover this need.

3. I read the news that "toxic waste clean-up" would be halted without a revised Amended budget. The fact is that the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund has a $10 million balance. The funding levels for each of the 2007 and 2008 budgets match the 2003 budget, which was approved prior to the recession freefall.

4. And what about screenings for newborns? The Governor thoughtfully recommended $830,000 to cover an increase in newborn screenings. The Conference Committee report did not include the funding. The Department of Human Resources, with an overall $1.5 billion budget and $114 million in federal carryover funds, can cover the sum while the Fiscal Affairs Committee (intra-agency transfers) resolves the difference or the Amended 2008 kicks in. No crisis for babies here.

5. As to preparedness for a potential pandemic flu outbreak, the Governor recommended $15 million for Tamiflu and Relenza drugs to help those most at risk during an outbreak. The House recommended $7 million because 1.3 million doses are already stockpiled through federal funding (and the drugs have a limited shelf life). The Conference Committee took care of the concern in the 2008 budget by funding at the original amount the House recommended.

What's the long-term problem given the 2008 budget takes effect on July 1 months before flu season begins?

Are there tax cut or rebate options for the Amended budget surplus?

You've heard the murmurings that we should consider a different way to return the surplus funds to taxpayers. I know of no possible tax rebate existing in current state law, except increasing the homestead exemption on property as already approved by both the House and Senate.

Keep in mind the $142 million is a "bird in hand." A future tax cut would not impact the $142 million surplus in the 2007 Amended budget.

Homestead exemption tax rebate

The state appropriates state funds to pay for an $8,000 homestead property tax exemption for property owners. The appropriation makes counties, cities and school boards whole because they would otherwise collect this amount. The state does not appropriate for nor compensate for the additional and long-time $2000 state-required homestead exemption. In the 2007 fiscal year budget, the total appropriation to compensate for the $8,000 exemption is $425 million. When you cast a vote in favor of the Amended budget, you voted to retroactively increase the state homestead exemption by another $2750. The $142 million earmarked for this purpose is slated to pay for it.
What discretion does the Governor have in revising the revenue estimate?

- At any time in the fiscal cycle, the Governor may revise the revenue estimate. State law does not specify a particular procedure or protocol for this.

- At any timeduring the last six months of the fiscal cycle, the Governor may withhold a percentage of any agency's or all agencies' allotment IF actual revenues are less than the estimate. The percentage reduction should reflect the shortfall. - As of the end of March, actual revenues were on target with the estimate. I have not yet seen the April figures.

What happens if an Amended 2007 budget is not agreed to by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year?

The entire remainder of funds left in the current 2007 Amended budget will lapse and be moved to the revenue shortfall reserve. Public education and Peachcare, in particular, will come up short. We must resolve to agree and negotiate a budget prior to that date. I have every confidence in House and Senate leadership and the Governor that we will.

If the Governor has vetoed the Amended budget, can he change his mind?

Yes, until the veto is transmitted.

In conclusion

I believe Georgians' hopes, dreams and needs are expressed and safe-guarded in the Amended 2007and 2008 state budgets. And like you, I stand ready to work with our leadership, Governor and fellow senators to swiftly resolve any differences in the budget.

I prefer to see it resolved without a special session. Should our Governor proceed with a call for a special session, I am confident the House and Senate will join with him to assure Georgia that its state leadership is focused on moving our great state forward and working with its best interests in mind. I believe it was Winston Churchill that said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others." It is messy and uncomfortable, but I am thankful that with the Governor's steadfast leadership, the House and Senate have shown - and will continue to show - democracy works.

Best -

Jan Jones
State Representative

Milton Welcomes First Three New Fire Engines

Vehicles feature distinctive color scheme, latest technology

Not only does the City of Milton have some of the newest, most technologically advanced public safety vehicles in the state, one could also make the case that it has the best-looking fleet.On May 4, the city took delivery of three custom-built Pierce Enforcer pumper trucks. The fire engines feature a unique black-over-red color scheme along with Milton’s racing horse icon prominently displayed on the sides. Most engines are all red or a white-over-red combination, department officials note. The engines, manufactured in Appleton, Wis., are the first of four trucks that will form the foundation of the new city’s fire operation, which deploys May 18.Purchased through Ten-8 Fire Apparatus of Forsyth, Ga. at a cost of approximately $400,000 each, the trucks were built to meet Milton’s specific needs.

Among the unique characteristics are:

A 750-gallon water capacity vs. normal 500 gallons
A shorter wheelbase enabling the vehicles to get into, get out of and turn around in tight spaces; and Each is equipped with two chainsaws, enabling Milton firefighters to better combat brush fires as well as allowing them to assist in storm cleanup and other duties.

The trucks all feature a full complement of fire suppression, extrication, safety and medical equipment and outfitted with the latest technology including in-vehicle laptop computers, thermal imaging cameras, gas detection instruments and LED lighting systems.The engines were driven from Appleton to Forsyth, where they were outfitted with hoses and all other equipment before driven on to Milton. Milton’s fire operations also will include a 2007 Pierce Dash ladder truck, known as a “quint,” that includes a 75-foot articulating aerial ladder, and a 2008 Ford F250 4X4 extended-bed wildland/brush truck that features a 300-foot forestry hose and 100-gallon water tank. These vehicles are expected to be delivered within the next several weeks.The fire vehicles join the city’s 18 black Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors with their distinctive red, gray and white graphics, which began patrolling the streets of Milton May 1.
The trucks make their first public appearance May 5 at a fund-raiser “muster” hosted by the City of Roswell Fire Department. The event is being held at the intersection of Holcomb Bridge Road and Alpharetta Highway (S.R. 9).Mayor Joe Lockwood will swear in the city’s 40 firefighters in a ceremony starting at 10 a.m. Friday, May 11. The men and women are currently undergoing a two-week training period that includes getting familiar with the equipment they will be using, practicing such skills as arson detection, drafting operations and extrication techniques, emergency medical services training, and familiarizing themselves with the city overall.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Competition Arises As Accessmilton.com Reaches 100,000 Hits

By Anderson Lee; Accessmilton.com

Accessmilton.com, the #1 website for all things Milton, GA, is about to surpass 100,000 hits since it's activation two years ago. "This is a wonderful time to be part of Milton," CEO Ginger Enloe was quoted as saying, "the credit needs to go to Milton's citizens, however. If they didn't engage their interest for this community online, we wouldn't be witnessing the successes we are seeing here today."

CMO Scott Thompson, one of the founders of the company, added "The last we checked, our statcounter hits were right at 98,600. I would expect us to pass the 100,000 hit mark within the week."
In celebration of Accessmilton.com's success, the company has put together a competition that will allow visitors to guess the day the website makes the turn. The first email recieved
after this site passes this goal will receive a free Port Authority "Milton, Georgia" base ball cap as well as license plate. To see these items, please click here -> http://www.accessmilton.com/OnlineStore.php

All citizens have to do is email the company at magnoliamedia@yahoo.com with the subject line
"Did I win?"

Co-founder Tim Enloe added, "When it all boils down to it, Accessmilton.com is about community with a little fun thrown in. We hope the winner enjoys the prizes with Milton Pride."

Milton Police Now On Patrol

With blue lights flashing and a celebratory blast of sirens, 14 patrol cars rolled out of the City Hall parking lot at midnight May 1, ushering in a new era of law enforcement for the City of Milton.

Five minutes after the city police operations deployed, a Fulton County Police Department major pulled their units from the city roads with a radio notification that Milton police had officially assumed their duties. Public Safety Director Chris Lagerbloom went on the air to thank Fulton PD for its service and the Fulton major wished Lagerbloom and the officers well.
“It was a nice exchange,” Lagerbloom said.

At 12:10 a.m., the first call was radioed out through Fulton County dispatch – an alarm report at the Crabapple Tea Room at 800 Mid Broadwell Road. The call was cancelled before the responding officer could arrive.At 1 a.m., police had their first case – a single-vehicle rollover accident at Birmingham Highway and Lexington Plantation Way. A Comcast service truck servicing a line with its boom arm extended had toppled over.

In all, officers made 20 traffic stops during the inaugural shift – more than Lagerbloom expects will be usual for a Monday night shift, due to the numerous off-duty officers who were on the roads. Only two stops resulted in tickets, one for an expired tag and the other for illegally passing a school bus.

The excitement surrounding the deployment of the city’s police operations was clearly evident, starting with the fact that while a normal night shift consists of a lieutenant and three patrol officers, 14 of the force’s 21 officers were on hand for the roll out. The members not present were those slated to work the day shift, which started at 5 a.m. Lagerbloom instructed them to stay home to ensure they would be fresh for the first full 12-hour shift.

Joining in the historic occasion were Mayor Joe Lockwood and City Council members, several city staff members led by City Manager Aaron Bovos, along with representatives of the Alpharetta Police Department, Milton’s neighboring jurisdiction.

“I enjoyed being a part of it; there was excitement in the air,” Council Member Karen Thurman said. “The police are one of the most tangible resources a city has and now it seems so real.”
“This has been a day we’ve been waiting for,” added Council Member Rick Mohrig. “It is exciting to see the officers and their enthusiasm and we give them our support as they begin to service to our citizens. This has been a long time coming and we are thrilled it has arrived.”
Officers began arriving shortly before 9 p.m., two hours before roll call and three before the start of the shift, wanting to take it all in. They found dinner waiting courtesy of Judy Jay of Great American Specialty Advertising, the firm that provided badges and patches for both police and fire operations (which launches May 18).

At 11 p.m., the officers assembled in council chambers for the first roll call where shift Lt. Matt Marietta reviewed several items and Lagerbloom addressed his force.“It seemed like this day would never get here but now it’s about to be reality,” the director said. “We have a tremendous responsibility but if there is one thing I’m sure of, it’s that nothing will occur tonight or going forward that we won’t be able to handle. And if there is one thing I would wish for this agency, it’s a long history of safe operation.”

From there the officers moved to the parking lot for a pre-deployment check of their vehicles and equipment. The 2007 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors feature the latest technology, including laptop computers that not only allow officers to complete paperwork on scene but also feature global positioning system (GPS) capabilities to help them find their way around city roads and streets.

At the stroke of midnight, Lagerbloom got on his vehicle’s public address system and gave the order to roll, sending the patrol off into the night.

Metro Atlanta Paving 55 Acres A Day

By STACY SHELTON
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/01/07

Metro Atlanta is adding 55 acres worth of concrete, asphalt and rooftops every day — double the amount of new pavement since the last time it was measured in 2001, according to a new study out of the University of Georgia.

The study also showed the region continues to lose about 50 acres of trees a day — about four acres less than 2001.On one hand, the numbers tell the story of metro Atlanta's continuing prosperity. On the other, they show us what we're losing. With every new parking lot, shopping center and subdivision, piney woods and small creeks are disappearing, leaving even fewer natural places where the loudest noise is a bird call.


"It's scary stuff to look at this," said Liz Kramer, director of UGA's Natural Resources Spatial Analysis Laboratory and the study leader. "What we're seeing is not good planning and its cumulative effects."Kramer used detailed aerial photography to assess Georgia's tree canopy and hard surfaces. The Georgia Forestry Commission was the main sponsor of the study, which cost about $150,000. The state Environmental Protection Division also provided some funding.
For numbers on new hard surfaces and loss of tree cover, UGA focused on the 16-county metro area during the years 2001 through 2005. This is the second study of its kind from Kramer, which the forestry commission hopes will be used by planners to consider the regional impacts of development.


Gwinnett County, where an average of nine acres of pavement is laid down every day, has struggled to manage problems caused by rapid growth in recent years. Last year, the county became one of the first to start charging home and business owners a stormwater utility fee to manage the runoff from new paving and development.


More hard surfaces means fewer forests, wetlands and soils are available to soak up the water and more flooding. The same phenomenon exacerbates droughts. When hardtop blocks the rain from soaking in and refilling groundwater supplies, water isn't available to slowly drain into rivers and streams during a drought.


Many of the region's rivers and streams, and its two largest lakes — Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona — are polluted from stormwater runoff, the rain that hits pavement, picks up dirt and grease, and drains into the nearest waterway. Scientists who study water quality say streams start to degrade when as little as 9 or 10 percent of a drainage area is covered with hard surfaces. Metro Atlanta's most populated counties — Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Fulton — are at least 18 percent covered.


Of all the counties, Clayton has the most hard surfaces at 25 percent — a number influenced by its small size and the presence of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and surrounding development. Jim Stokes, president of the Georgia Conservancy, the state's largest environmental advocacy group, said the numbers in the study "heighten the importance of our parks. That's why [Atlanta's] Piedmont Park becomes more important, and even more, smaller urban parks and green spaces."


The numbers help explain perennial environmental problems in the region as well: air and water pollution. Low-level ozone, a major component of smog, is created when car and industrial pollution cooks together on hot summery days. Roads, parking lots and other hard surfaces create a heat island effect, increasing the temperatures that worsen the region's smog.
With fewer trees, there's less shade available to cool temperatures, and fewer to filter some of the pollution that causes smog. The human cost is paid in asthma attacks, emphysema flare-ups and other respiratory illnesses caused by breathing unhealthy air.


"I think the moral of the story is that this was done without a regional plan," Kramer said. "This is a result of 5 million independent decisions. . . We can use this information to do a better job of planning to catch up and get ahead."Susan Reisch, the forestry commission's urban and community forestry coordinator, said she hopes communities will use the information, which includes statewide figures, as a benchmark to improve on.


"I think they [community leaders] get it when they see the visual images and data," Reisch said. Developers are getting it too. Conservation subdivisions, in which the developers leave as much as 40 percent of green space in return for higher density on the rest of the land, are slowly catching on. But it's still a hard sell in neighborhoods used to lot sizes of a half acre or more.
Michael Paris, president and CEO of the Council for Quality Growth, a metro Atlanta organization that represents the growth industry, said "local communities don't like the idea that the lots are smaller and politically, it becomes tough sometimes."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Citizens Petition Against Possible Milton Sewer

All:

Staff recieved the following online petition against the proposal of sewer coming into Milton, GA. Per this citizen's request, we have posted the online petition link below. As always, Magnolia Media, LLC / Accessmilton.com is more than willing to provide opposing view points and / or petitions.

- Tim Enloe; Magnolia Media, LLC

On-Line Petition Against Milton Sewer

Please sign this online petition for NO SEWER IN MILTON which must be signed and received no later than Thursday (tomorrow afternoon) for City Council Meeting this Thursday at Milton City Hall, 13000 Deerfield Parkway at 7:00pm. It takes less than 1 minute. And then pass this email around to everyone you know in Milton and make a difference in this beautiful community. Thanks!

http://www.petitiononline.com/MG030307/petition.html