Tuesday, July 31, 2007

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Fourteen Hours Later, No Decision On Milton's City Manager's Fate

By DOUG NURSE / The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 07/30/07

It has taken juries less time to weigh evidence of murder and render verdicts of guilt or acquittal.

Cities have fallen, battles won, history changed in fewer ticks of the clock.

But this is Milton.

The City Council met Monday in executive session on "personnel matters" after City Manager Aaron Bovos waited four months to tell the council the city would probably lose about $900,000 because it had missed a deadline with the state. An angry council met behind closed doors to decide Bovos's fate.

At 10:30 p.m., 14 1/2 hours later, they adjourned with no decision.

They began deliberating at 8:08 a.m. while the birds still chirped their morning song. The moon hung low in the sky, and breakfast buffets were still open.Morning gave way to midday, and the council had taken a scant 20-minute break. They again retreated to their inner sanctum .

Occasionally, a City Council member would come out and murmur, "A couple more hours" or "a little while longer." Sometimes their visage bore bemused expressions, sometimes weary, sometimes somber, rarely hopeful.

Afternoon came, and then nighttime. Atlanta's legendary traffic surged, clogged, thinned and was gone. News cycles came and went. Eight, nine, ten hours passed, and they remained ensconced in their secret chambers.

From behind the doors, the voices sometimes would be loud. Sometimes there would be laughter.

Twelve, 13 hours and no decision.

Then, they ordered pizza.

Milton Council Discussing City Manager's Fate over $900k Loss

By DOUG NURSE / The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 07/30/07

Members of the Milton City Council have met for almost 2 hours, beginning shortly after 8 a.m. today in a special meeting to discuss "personnel matters," believed to be the employment future of their city manager.

Council members are upset that city manager Aaron Bovo didn't disclose to them that the city likely will forfeit $900,000 in tax revenue because of a missed deadline with the state.
Council members also have expressed displeasure that Bovos incorrectly claimed that the tax revenue in question would go to Fulton County where the city could access it. State officials have said that is highly unlikely.

"The City Council is extremely concerned about this loss of revenue and the fact they weren't informed of it for months, " said Council member Bill Lusk. "As a businessman, I understand that people make mistakes, but to not inform your superiors is inexcusable."
"It's about accountability, " said council member Rick Mohrig. "There needs to be accountability at the top. Under similar circumstances, if this happened in the private sector, there would be consequences."Mohrig declined to speculate what the consequences might be.

Bovos was hired to manage Milton following his successful tenure with the city of Sandy Springs. He is credited with helping the fledgling city of Milton get on its feet. The northwest Fulton County community became its own city on Dec. 1.

But the loss of the $900,000 in taxes would equal 7 percent of the city's $12.6 million budget, a large hit for a new city. The Milton city staff missed a Jan. 1 deadline to send documents to the state's Department of Insurance to qualify for the tax revenue.

The error was discovered in March when City Operations Director Carol Wolfe was talking to Department of Insurance staff about another matter and the subject of the tax came up. However, no Milton City Council members were made aware of the problem until July, when City Council member Karen Thurman inquired about it.

Bovos said the missed deadline was an oversight that occurred in the frenzied days of early cityhood when city staff were wading through reams of ordinances that needed to be adopted by the City Council. "It just got missed, " Bovos said in an earlier interview. "The agendas had 1,100 pages. This is two paragraphs."

City of Milton Comprehensive Plan

On behalf of the Mayor Joe Lockwood and the Milton City Council, I would like to welcome you to the Milton Comprehensive Plan interactive Web site area and extend an opportunity for you and your neighbors to be involved in helping chart a path for the City of Milton’s future.

The Milton Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) will oversee the planning process for the city in developing priorities that incorporate the values of the majority of the residency and shape these objectives into a desirable implementation program.

The Milton City Council has enlisted the expertise of a private consulting firm to manage the overall comprehensive planning process through 2008 in an effort to meet with area residents in creating a truly interactive public involvement program that meets the needs of an evolving municipal economy.

This interactive Web site area will incorporate a city e-mail address link that will allow Milton citizens a continuous opportunity to provide public input as part of the on-going Comprehensive Plan process. The Milton CPAC includes the members of the Planning Commission, Chairperson of the Board of Zoning Appeals, Chairperson of the Design Review Board, and the seven citizen appointments of the Milton Mayor and City Council membership. The CPAC Chairman, George Ragsdale, also sits on the City’s Planning Commission.

Consultants for the Milton Comprehensive Plan will develop an exciting program that will last over a 12-month period, utilizing the Georgia Department of Community Affairs minimum standards as the underlying foundation in the performance schedule.

The City of Milton is currently operating under the Focus Fulton County 2025 Comprehensive Plan Update, originally adopted by the Fulton County Commission in November 2005.
The city’s staff will continuously monitor and update this Web site with associated informational files attached to the Milton Comprehensive Plan site to serve as educational tools for Milton residents to review and provide public involvement comments.

The Milton Mayor and City Council has viewed the Comprehensive Plan process as one of the most important goals in the list of priorities for our new municipality, where we are both proud and excited to bring this involved process on behalf of the Community Development Department to the citizen of Milton.


Tom Wilson,Community Development Director

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Letter to the Editor is a community focused website which values all individuals opinions. Should a reader have an alternative viewpoint, we are more than willing to provide equal air time.

- Staff


Dear Sirs:

The Planning Commission Meeting last night at which we presented our Petition for Re-Zoning for the Dinsmore Commons was disappointing in some ways. The good parts were that he meeting was well run and the commissioners seemed to be interested in doing the right thing for Milton, and that we got two votes in our favor that were concerned with just our plan. The disappointing part was that the actual process of approvals or denials has been hijacked by the issue of whether the policy of capping commercial growth in Crabapple is indeed the law, or whether there is reason to believe that the Comprehensive Land Use Plan is law and the Cap is just the policy of this City Council.

Our plan complies with, or exceeds to the benefit of, every planning principle used by the City of Milton for land use planning. We never really were heard on our plan because of Cap policy you have said you have in place. The only case heard on this issue last month was denied for that policy reason, but it should have been denied because it was a bad plan. I have been told by every planner and attorney involved in land use work in the City of Milton and in Fulton County that I have spoken with that the Cap is a Node recommendation of the Fulton County Comprehensive Plan from market recommendations of 5 years ago with a specific nod to the Crabapple Crossroads Plan that has been adopted as policy by the City Council and that it is not law.

Is that right? Is the policy law or not? What legal authority do you have for that position? Are you prepared to tell the families and property owners in the center of the Crabapple Crossroads Land Use Plan that their property has no value other than as a family residence? Are you prepared for a coalition of those same folks to challenge your policy on a legal basis as a taking of their properties? Are you prepared to tell Mr. Dinsmore that his property is worth $1,000,000 less than what he has a contracted to sell it? That sounds like real damages to me. He has depended on your legally adopted Land Use Plan to sell his land, has turned down lesser offers over the last 3 years, and could lose his current sales contract solely due to your public policy grounded on the basis that it is better for Crabapple. There is already an approved development for more than 20,000 s.f. of commercial property outside of our from the core on our side of town. We will not stick out. We will fit in, and do it right.

The questions of the planning commission in regard to our plan were almost exclusively centered on whether if they approved our very good and well thought out plan that they would have to accept others with similar plans in the Crabapple Mixed Use designation. Respectfully, that is exactly why the Land Use Plan was made and legally adopted. So that the Crabapple Crossroads could be the community center with mixed uses and greater density graduating quickly towards full rural lifestyle properties. Fulton County planned it, sold off all the easy commercial spots to those with money, and left you to deal with what was left. Nothing. It sounds to me as if your plan has no value, and it has been shown that your process of applications to fulfill that plan has no value. Your policy leaves the property owners in that downtown crossroads area with little choice but to sue the City that they helped to create to garner the value of the plan they helped you put together and supported your council positions in order to get.

I am at a loss as to how to proceed to get your attention for this matter. Your policy of capping commercial development because of a Node designation for market conditions present 5 years ago before Milton was even a city has put us at cross purposes. I will present my plan for the development of Dinsmore Commons that, according to the collaborative efforts of architects, city staff, engineers and land use planners involved, fits exactly with the Land Use Plan and character of the community.

If you accept our plan and allow the re-zoning as requested we will be grateful and happy to bring to the community a development of which they can be proud. If you deny our petition, we will re-group, consult with the many neighbors in similar positions, and begin again. We will at least have made you say to the community at large that your policy that does not fit the plan and is fundamentally unfair in the manner in which it was executed is the way the city intends to act towards all reasonable development in the Crabapple core. That, I believe, gives any property owner so affected legal standing for action.

Don't you want a healthy village mix of uses in the Crabapple core? Don't you want a greater tax base for support of community values and infrastructure? Don't you want a better traffic plan? Don't you want sidewalks that folks can walk on and trails that they can visit their neighbors from? Can you say that you are putting the community first? Ask the folks living in Crabapple. Ask the people that are depending on you to live up to the legally adopted Land Use Plan for Crabapple Crossroads.


Jay Davis /

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Missed Deadline May Cost Milton $900,000

By / DOUG NURSE / published on: 07/24/07 /

Milton may end up forfeiting $900,000 in taxes because the city missed a Jan. 1 deadline to provide the state with the documents required.

The loss of the taxes would equal 7 percent of the city's $12.6 million budget, a huge hit for a new city struggling to get on its feet.

"It would be a tremendous setback to be unable to recover this money," City Councilman Neal O'Brien said. "Not getting this money puts us in a difficult spot. I was hoping to roll back the property tax rate, but that may not be possible. It's frustrating because the voters expected us to be very frugal with limited government but equal or better services."

The taxes in question are paid to the Georgia Department of Insurance by insurance companies based on percentage of premiums on all policies. The Department of Insurance returns the money to cities and counties. City Manager Aaron Bovos depicts the missed deadline as creating an inconvenience, and believes the city eventually will get the money. However, a state Department of Insurance spokesman said the department staff and lawyers haven't determined where the money legally should go. "To my knowledge, this is the first time this has come up," said Glenn Allen, spokesman for Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. "It could go to Fulton County, or it could be dispersed among the other cities and counties statewide."

Fulton County Deputy Finance Director Sharon Whitmore said she doesn't think the money will come to the county. She said the Department of Insurance doesn't give the cities' share of the taxes to the county. The county only receives proceeds for the population in the unincorporated parts of the county.

"I can't see them saying, 'Here's Milton's share,' " Whitmore said. "I don't think they'll do it."
Mayor Joe Lockwood declined to comment, other than to say: "I've been briefed, and our staff is looking into it and I am confident they'll find a solution."

City Councilman Bill Lusk said he felt ill when he learned of the missed deadline. "I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach," Lusk said. "My first reaction was, how did this happen?"
Bovos said the missed deadline was an oversight that occurred in the frenzied days of early cityhood when city staff were wading through reams of ordinances that needed to be adopted by the City Council. Northwest Fulton County became the new city of Milton on Dec. 1.

"It just got missed," Bovos said. "The agendas had 1,100 pages. This is two paragraphs."
The new cities of Sandy Springs — where Bovos worked before he came to Milton — and Johns Creek filed their documentation before their deadlines.

There will be no immediate impact on services in Milton because the earliest the city would have received the tax would be in the 2008-2009 budget year. The city became aware of the oversight in March when finance director Carol Wolfe was talking to Department of Insurance staff about another issue, and the subject of the tax came up. According to a July 12 memorandum to the mayor and City Councilwoman Karen Thurman, Wolfe promptly sent the documents to the Department of Insurance and tried to convince the state to cut the city a break, but the answer was no.

But Bovos says the city still has an ace it can play — the General Assembly. In a public memorandum posted on the city Web site, Bovos wrote, "The worst case scenario is that we ask the State to assist us in writing legislation during the 2008 General Assembly that will allow us to recover the revenue."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Little River Animal Hospital Receives Accreditation

[ALPHARETTA, GA] — Little River Animal Hospital of Alpharetta has received accreditation following a comprehensive evaluation by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). The evaluation includes a quality assessment review of the hospital’s facility, medical equipment, practice methods and pet health care management.

Only 15 percent of all small animal veterinary practices in the U.S. have achieved accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association. In order to maintain accredited status, Little River Animal Hospital must continue to be evaluated regularly by the association’s consultants.

“Little River Animal Hospital belongs to a select group of practices that are committed to meeting the highest standards in veterinary medicine,” says Thomas A. Carpenter, DVM, AAHA president. “AAHA hospitals pass a stringent evaluation of more than 900 standards covering patient care, client service and medical protocols. By attaining accreditation, Little River Animal Hospital is demonstrating its dedication to offering the best care to its patients and clients.”

The American Animal Hospital Association is an international organization of more than 36,000 veterinary care providers who treat companion animals. Established in 1933, the association is well known among veterinarians for its high standards for hospitals and pet health care. For pet care information or a referral to an AAHA hospital, pet owners can visit the AAHA website at

Little River Animal Hospital, located at 15710 Birmingham Hwy, has been an accredited practice member of the association since 2007 and can be reached online at

Note from City Manager Aaron Bovos

July 20,2007

Dear Citizens of Milton:

The City of Milton's insurance premium tax collection has been a topic of interest in the last several days.As your City Manager, I want to take this opportunity to provide you with all of the important facts related to this issue to ensure that any questiom you have are answered.

What is the insurance premium tax?

Every insurance company is required to pay tax on premiums collected for policies written in the State of Georgia. fis tax is called the Insurance Premium Tax. Life insurance companies are taxed at 1% of gross premiums received, whiIe all other insurance companies are taxed at 2.5%of gross premium received.

What happens to the tax monies collected?

The insurance premium tax is collected by the insurance companies throughout the calendar year and remitted to the State Insurance Commissioner's Office in the subsequent year. On or about October 15th of the year following collection, a distribution of the tax is made to all participating counties and municipalities. The distribution is based on the ratio of each county's or municipality's population relative to the overall state population. As an example, taxes calculated during calendar year 2006 would be distributed on or before October 15,2007 to each local government.

How were these taxes collected and distributedprior ta the City of Milton's incorporation?

Insurance premium taxes collected prior to the City's incorporationon December 1,2006 were remitted to Fulton County.Taxes collected in2005 and slated for distribution in 2006, approximating $850,000, were deposited into the Fulton County special service district fund for Northwest FuIton County.The City of MiIton could not receive these funds in 2006 because the City had not yet achieved incorporation. However, City of Milton residents received full benefit from these funds due tor equirements surrounding the Fulton County special service district fund.

What happened in the City of Milton in regard to this tax?

The City anticipated filingfor this revenue source in December 2006, making our jurisdiction eligible for a distribution of the 2007 tax in October 2008. Due to a filing error, the deadline to file the appropriate ordinance was not met. The ordinance was filed on March 18,2007,which delays our distribution of these funds until October 2009.

Has the City of Milton lost this money?

The City has gut into motion a three-part pIan to recover our portion of the 2008 revenue from the Insurance Commissioner's Office. We anticipate that an agreement will be worked out between the City and the State and that these funds wilI be received as if the filing occurred on time. The worst case scenario is that we wilf ask the State to assist us in writing legislation - - -
during the 2008 General Session which will allow us to recover the revenue. We are confident
that these plans will result in Milton receiving our portion of the Insurance Premium Tax that
wiIl be distributed in 2008.

Will services be affected?

The delay of the receipt of these will have no operational impact on services provided by the City of Milton. The City was not eligible for these funds for its first fiscal year,and therefore we have not relied on this revenue source to fund operations.

What steps has the City taken to ensure this error won't happen again?

Because this ordinance is only required to be filed with the State one time, there is no possibility of the same error occuring twice. The City met its filing requirement in March 21, 07 for all future years' distribution of this tax.

I understand and share your concern about this revenue being delayed;it means we have
postponed our ability toprovide you with an increased level of service over our initial year of
incorporation. I take responsibility for this fact. The staff and I will continue to provide
services and establish an operational government which is both effective and efficient in
delivering services to our constituents.

As we near our eight-month anniversary as a newly incorporated City, we are enthusiastic
about the progress and success that is happening every day. From the launch of the City's
public safety department,which provides our citizens with local Fire and Police services, to the
upcoming development of the City's Comprehensive Plan, which outlines the future for the
City of Milton, we see exciting developments happening every day. We will continue to work
diligently to build a City that you can be proud to call home. You have my commitment on

I hope this document answers any questions you may have about the insurance premium tax
and gives you a better understanding of this matter. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.


Aaron J. Bovos City Manager

Friday, July 20, 2007

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It's A Mystery In Milton...

By Patti Silva & Abbe Laboda /

Last month, during the making of an extended oral history project at Hopewell Baptist Church, Patti Silva and Abbe Laboda of met Mr. Hugh Winton Bell, born in 1922, and his beautiful wife Louise. Original Miltonians, they both attended The Hopewell School, which has long been vacant since the seventies, and is now under private ownership. During our history lesson with Mr. Bell, he revealed to us that his class created a time capsule filled with personal trinkets and various items holding no monetary value, but sentimental value, especially to Mr. Bell. He said he knew exactly where it was located. We offered to take him to the property and try to figure out a way to obtain permission to excavate the capsule and open this wonderful piece of history. Mr. Bell's thought was to return the items to the respective families. Keep in mind that there is only one other person left alive who placed items in the time capsule. It is one wish from an elderly southern gentleman, how could we not help fulfill it.
Through the community's help, we were able to find the the new owner's phone number and the contact information of the demolition company that would raze the historical building. Within 24 hours we took the Bells to the property and photographed Mr. Bell with the beautiful history filled time capsule secretly hidden behind the cornerstone of the old school. We made plans to meet the demolition crew 2 days later, after they obtained the proper permits, for an informal unveiling of the anticipated time capsule. We were on on way to uncovering a piece of Milton's history, or so we thought.

In the middle of the night, the owners of the property secretly removed the time capsule. When we discovered this the next morning, we contacted the owner to ask him if he would meet with Mr. Bell so that Mr. Bell could simply look through it and take home the item in which he buried so long ago. The new owner said it was his property, having been on the property, when he purchased the land. We tried connecting the two gentlemen together by exchanging their phone numbers and urging the new owner to contact Mr. Bell for pure humanitarian sake. As of this writing, no advancements have been made and MILTONville wants to help Mr. Bell.

We are hoping one of the local papers picks this up and and initiates some simple investigative reporting in uncovering the rest of the story. To whom does the Time Capsule belong - the new owners or the original people who placed items in the capsule? We know the answer but doesn't a 85 year old man deserve the right, if not just a simple act of kindness and courtesy, to see what he and his classmates buried so long ago? It has been rumored that there was a Bible in the capsule. Doesn't that family deserve to have it back? What are the new owners going to do with the items? What would you do? We remain optimistic that the contents will one day get back to the families that put them there in the first place. We have hopes that the new Hopewell Community and the residents of Milton will one day see what's inside. And, the rest will be history.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Complaint Against Milton Council Members Tossed Out

By DOUG NURSE / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Published on: 07/16/07

The Milton Board of Ethics unanimously tossed out a complaint against two City Council members accused of using city resources for personal gain.

"Once the complaint was raised it was appropriate to work the process through," said Council member Neal O'Brien. "Everyone connected with this believed it was frivolous. But it is a relief."

Resident Leon Cole filed the complaint in April after O'Brien and Lusk had the city clerk alert the press that they were having a fund-raiser. The council members said they believed a quorum of the council might be present and they were trying not to run afoul of the open meetings law.

Cole said that was tantamount to improper use of city resources."I was hoping that the complaint would stand, but that they would just get a slap on the wrist," he said. "It was a technical violation. Whether it was intentional, we have to take their word on that."

Richard Carothers, a Buford-based attorney, independently reviewed testimony from both councilmen and city staff that was gathered by the city attorney, and concluded there was no basis for the complaint.

Carothers told the board — comprised of seven council-appointed Milton residents — he believed the notice to the press, which was short and direct, should have said the heads-up was solely prompted by the prospect of a quorum.

Milton became a legal, functioning city on Dec. 1. Since then, there's been ethics complaints filed against the two council members in one case, the mayor in another, and a third against an Ethics Board member.

O'Brien and Lusk said they might seek $2,500 in restitution from the city for legal expenses.
Lusk observed he has been in engineering and contracting for 40 years and never had an ethics charge filed against him, but it only took three months in politics to become the target of a complaint. He said he was happy to have the case behind him.

"It's over, it's behind us," Lusk said. "The aspersion against my character and reputation is the thing I resented most," he said.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Milton, Georgia Makes National News.

Crazy Productive: What Is Industrial Psychology?

Industrial Psychologists Use Science to Make Employees More Productive


Starting a city from scratch is no small feat: You need a mayor, a city council, a police chief and … a psychologist?

Since incorporating in December 2006, the city of Milton, Ga., has been experiencing some growing pains. The mayor and the six members of the city council aren't just getting used to running a town, they're also just getting used to one another.

And that's caused a few problems. So, the city council decided to address them with the help of retreats and an industrial psychologist.

But their attempts to bring some harmony to city hall, have been, well, less than civil.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a council retreat mediated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government turned into a meeting about respecting one another's feelings, and despite new rules of conduct, members continue to accuse other members of lying in open council meetings.

"We're all new at this, and we just need time to figure things out," Mayor Joe Lockwood told "We've all got strengths and we've all got weaknesses, and we hoped an industrial psychologist could help us maximize those strengths."

Plans to hire a psychologist to advise the council on how best to work together were, according to the mayor, met with a certain degree of skepticism by the local media and some people in town. But, he said, industrial psychologists regularly advise major corporations.

"A city is like a company, the council is like the board of directors and the mayor is like the chairman of a company," Lockwood said. "It wouldn't be any different for a big company. We'll do team building and organizational training. … In the private world this is totally normal." That's true, according to David Nershi, the executive director of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Some 3,000 corporations, including most Fortune 500 companies, employ industrial psychologists, Nershi said.

Members of the society have made presentations in the past year at PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch, Nike, Starbucks and Payless Shoes conferences, he said.

What Is Industrial Psychology?

"Basically [industrial] psychology focuses on understanding people in organizations. Our members are not so much mental health professional as they are people who apply psychology to the workplace," he said.

Companies use industrial psychologists to "measure job knowledge and skills, determine hiring and to evaluate training and employee motivation and attitude," Nershi said.

Stephen Marshal has been an industrial psychologist for more than 30 years.
"Unlike private therapists," he said, industrial psychologists "are focused on a company's bottom line."

Companies need outside experts, Marshal said, to apply scientific principles to evaluating employees. By knowing which employee is the most potentially productive, companies can hire and promote individuals and reorganize divisions.

Marshal said two of the tools he most often uses to evaluate people are a personality test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and something called "360-degree feedback."
The Myers-Briggs Test separates people into several different personality types within the broad categories of introverted and extroverted.

Three-sixty-degree feedback evaluates an employee's performance by interviewing his peers, subordinates and managers.

In the end, Marshal said, performance, not employee happiness, is the industrial psychologist's No. 1 priority. "Much of my work is working with teams to create high-performance teams. Getting along is great, but working to help clients is better," he said.

Is This All Just Bull?

Despite the science practitioners claim is behind their methods, industrial psychology is not without its detractors.

In his book "100 Bulls**t Jobs … And How to Get Them," author and Fortune magazine columnist Stanley Bing accuses industrial psychologists of blowing a lot of hot air.

The problem with industrial psychology, he said, is that it focuses on the wrong problems.
"In my view, at best industrial psychology can do no harm, and at worst it can be a force for organizational fascism within the company," Bing told "It makes people adjust to the organization, when the organization is what needs adjusting. "[Industrial psychologists] are a Band-Aid a lot of the time, which clueless people try to put on a problem in order to create the illusion of doing something to fix it."

The Milton City Council may never get the time it wants with an industrial psychologist.
The council has been paying psychologist Doug Griest $6,400 for consulting. But when local reporters demanded to be let in on the meetings, Griest said it would violate doctor-patient confidentiality.

According to Mayor Lockwood, the council is now deciding whether its members should waive their confidentiality rights, meet individually with Griest, or cancel the counseling.

Bing offers another suggestion for the council members. "This is not a mental problem where people are having trouble adjusting. These people just hate each other and probably for good reason. They don't need a psychologist … they just need to do their jobs."

Monday Mayhem.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ethics Charge Latest Ruckus In Milton

Board members are at odds over political donation

By DOUG NURSE / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Published on: 07/16/07

Just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder in the city of Milton comes this: A city ethics board member on Friday filed an ethics complaint against another city ethics board member.

John McMillan, an ethics board member appointed by City Councilman Neal O'Brien, filed a complaint late Friday alleging that fellow ethics board member Carol Lane violated the city code of ethics when she inaccurately filled out a comment card at a July 12 council meeting that attested she had not contributed more than $250 to any candidate's campaign in the past two years.

McMillan attached a copy of a campaign contribution report from council member Julie Zahner Bailey that showed Lane had given $500 to Zahner Bailey.

"From a simple review of these documents, it appears to be clear that they directly contradict each other," McMillan wrote. "... Mrs. Lane should be held to the highest standards of behavior and should not be allowed to make such a false statement, whether intentionally or otherwise," McMillan wrote.

"It was a mistake," Lane said Saturday. "I will rectify it Monday if I can. I would call it a clerical error." She declined to speculate why McMillan filed the complaint. McMillan could not be reached for comment.

It is unclear whether the complaint means Lane will be unable to participate in a meeting today of the Ethics Commission in which the seven-member panel will consider a complaint against O'Brien and council member Bill Lusk.

The complaint against O'Brien and Lusk, brought by a contributor to Zahner Bailey, alleges that the councilmen violated the city code of ethics when they asked the city clerk to let the media know they were having a fund-raiser. The complaint alleges they improperly used city resources for personal gain. Lusk and O'Brien said they did it because a quorum might be present.

The council often splits 4-3 with Zahner Bailey, Mayor Joe Lockwood and Tina D'Aversa on one side, and O'Brien, Lusk, Karen Thurman and Rick Mohrig on the other. Relationships have deteriorated with members needling each other and trading accusations of deceit and manipulation.

Milton Firefighters Join Fight Against Muscular Dystrophy

Community urged to save their change, help ‘fill the boot’ July 27-29

Milton firefighters will be outside the Wal-Mart on Winward Parkway and at intersections throughout the city July 27-29 to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the fight against neuromuscular disease.

For over 50 years, firefighters across the nation have teamed up with MDA to fight muscle disease. MDA commends these national heroes, as well as Gov. Sonny Perdue, who has proclaimed the month of August as MDA Firefighter Appreciation Month.

Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood and the Milton City Council have joined in as well, proclaiming the week of July 22 as MDA Firefighter Appreciation Week in the city.“I am extremely proud of these men and women, who, at a moment’s notice, risk their lives subduing fires and saving residents from emergencies that could be deadly situations,” Lockwood said. Milton firefighters are asking the entire community to save their change to help them “fill the boot.” Proceeds will support MDA’s efforts to continue serving over 2,200 families in the Atlanta and north Georgia areas by providing assistance with the purchase and maintenance of wheelchairs, leg braces and speech communication devices, as well as funding research aimed at curing neuromuscular disease.

In addition, children living with muscular dystrophy, ages 6-21, can attend MDA Summer Camp at Camp Walk-n-Roll in Rutledge, GA for one week where they will participate in specialized events and develop new friendships, build self-confidence, and discover independence.“I hope this is a huge success in our city,” the mayor said. “We hope to make this an annual event.”

At the end of their fundraising campaign, a representative from the City of Milton fire service will present the check during the 2007 MDA Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon broadcast on WUPA, CW Atlanta, on Sept. 2-3.

MDA is a voluntary health agency working to find treatments and cures for 43 neuromuscular diseases through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive medical and community services and far-reaching professional and public health education. MDA is the first non-profit organization honored with the American Medical Association Lifetime Achievement Award for “significant and lasting contributions to the health and welfare of humanity.”For more information about the “Fill the Boot” campaign or MDA, please contact Milton Fire Lt. Chris Coker at 770.740.2406.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Milton Council Hires Shrink

$6,400.00 to maximize meeting efficiency

by Jason Wright / / Milton Herald.

July 09, 2007

To put it bluntly, the experts have been called in to help calm the rancor that can sometimes consume Milton City Council meetings.

In the wake of both citizen and council comments that the city's seven elected officials need to work together more productively, Dr. Doug Griest, an industrial psychologist with the Management Psychology Group, has been hired to help the young team "maximize their efficiency."

He will presumably attempt to calm some of the rifts that have recently overshadowed the startup government's tremendous strides. However, due to professional and ethical standards, Greist could not comment on what he planned to do.

'I don't think it is unreasonable for seven people who are now elected officials to go through some training like this. They've never been elected officials before and they've never been in this role before.'Aaron Bovos City Manager

He could comment on what his company is known for.

"We try to help teams maximize their effectiveness by understanding each other and how they can communicate," said Greist. "You know, teamwork, dealing with issues of conflict. All organizations that work together are going to have conflict from time to time."Griest came with a price tag of $6,400, a discounted rate applied to governments and non-profit groups.

According to City Manager Aaron Bovos, the money came of out mayor and council's education budget – money earmarked for such an outlay."The approach we've taken is [one] of training and education," he said. "I think any time you can improve the way an organization runs, the better off in the long term you will be."

"I feel like it's a suitable investment for the city. We've gotten a lot of feedback that we need to streamline our meetings. It's not about getting along, it's about getting things done. We simply don't have the luxury of being ineffective.'Councilman Neal O'Brien

Bovos said it wasn't one member that brought the idea forward – but it was not the whole council, either. It's been an idea in the works for around three months.

"Council approached staff about the goal to work more as a team," he said. "We've had some great, extremely productive retreats, but council wants to be more productive in the time they spend together."

That's my interpretation of what I've observed."

Greist is in the process of interviewing or has interviewed all seven members of council, plus Bovos. Though it is still in scheduling at press time, a group session will more than likely take place before the July 12 work session and City Council meeting.

Understandably, opinion of the fee and presence of an outside official is varied on council – frankly a consensus would invalidate the need for Griest. There does seem to be one common thread, though – an ability to try it out for the greater common good.

"The bottom line is he's there to figure out how can we increase our effectiveness and how we work together," said Councilman Rick Mohrig.

"There are no hidden agendas – we want to get to where we have a high-performance team," he said. "Now that doesn't mean that everybody always agrees with each other – disagreement and different views can be good. But it's how you manage those differences of opinion."

Councilwomen Tina D'Aversa and Julie Zahner Bailey both said they did not support spending tax payers money on Greist.However, Zahner Bailey said she "hopes council's participation will prove productive."

D'Aversa agreed, adding there seem to be challenge with everyone getting along in a professional way."There's some obvious challenges with personalities, in my opinion," she said.

"I'm not sure why that is, but I guess that's [Griest's] job to determine."Zahner Bailey said she doesn't feel personality is the problem – it's simply the gravity of the issues."As a mayor and council we have to grapple with issues that are serious to the citizens of Milton," she said.

"[Disagreements occur] because of where we stand on these issues."Councilman Neal O'Brien said overall he thought it will be money well spent."I feel like it's a suitable investment for the city," he said. "We've gotten a lot of feedback that we need to streamline our meetings. It's not about getting along, it's about getting things done. We simply don't have the luxury of being ineffective."

Bovos pointed out it's important to recognize the roles the pressure and newness of the job play in every council interaction."I don't think it is unreasonable for seven people who are now elected officials to go through some training like this. They've never been elected officials before and they've never been in this role before," he said.

Bovos also said the training has to do with the forcefulness of personality needed to make it even in local politics."Just realize that all of us are here for the greater good of the community," he said. "We're all going to go about that differently – but overall we have the same goal in mind. Let's focus on the goal – versus some of the extraneous things we're drawn to."

Second Arrest in Milton Homicide

By / RHONDA COOK / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Published on: 07/12/07

Milton police have made a second arrest in the new city's first homicide but they continue to search for a third suspect in a the robbery-gone-wrong shooting death of Keith Brown on June 12.

The police agency for the 8-month-old city announced Thursday officers arrested Jeff Dulcio, 18, on murder and armed robbery charges as he stepped off a Greyhound bus from Crystal River, Fla., in downtown Atlanta.

They are still looking for Kisha "Key" Rutledge, 26, for her alleged role in the shooting death of Keith Brown. Stephen Woods, 19, of Sandy Springs, was arrested June 19.
Police believe Dulcio pulled the trigger after the trio targeted Brown because he was known to carry large amounts of cash.

Brown called police as he was dying on the living room floor of his apartment at the Preserve at Dearfield.

Milton has only one detective so officers from Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshal's Service made the arrest Wednesday night.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Milton Can't Close Door on Therapy Session

By / DOUG NURSE / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Published on: 07/12/07

Even though it may be awkward, even if feelings are hurt and tears are shed, a group therapy session for the Milton City Council has to be done in public — not behind closed doors.

"Discomfort is not a sufficient reason to close a meeting," Susan Moore, an attorney for the Georgia Municipal Association, told city officials.

The council in this newly formed Northside city is paying a psychologist $6,400 to analyze members' interactions with one another and help them resolve conflicts.

Doug Griest, a corporate psychologist, had planned to conduct a session Tuesday but canceled because The Atlanta Journal-Constitution intended to cover the meeting.

The city then called the municipal association and asked if the law allowed the council to meet with Griest in a closed session.

The answer was no. Now, all seven members must sign waivers releasing Griest from his doctor-patient confidentiality obligations.

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Ex-Marine recalls Thwarted Bank Robberry note: Normally, our staff focuses on topics and concerns that address the immediate city of Milton, GA. However, there will be times when we believe certain individuals need to be recognized for their positive contributions to society; no matter where the reside. In our view, Timothy Armstead is a hero. ->

By S.A. REID / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Published on: 07/11/07

Former marine Timothy Armstead was already upset about money missing from his account when he walked into the Washington Mutual Bank branch near South DeKalb Mall Tuesday.
But his bad day turned into an even worse day for an armed robber.

Armstead, who recounted his heroics on Wednesday, said he was the only other person in the bank when a man walked up to a teller's window and demanded $2,000. The man held a fire extinguisher and gave the teller five minutes to get him the money.

"The next thing I hear was a guy saying, 'If you don't give me the money, I'm going to blow up the place,'" recalled Armstead, 27, of Decatur.

Armstead, who is now the owner of a janitorial business, felt his six years in the Marines, including two tours in Iraq, prepared him to handle the situation.

After the teller brought the cash, the robber put the pin back in the extinguisher and turned to walk out the door, swinging it just wide enough for Armstead to follow.

"I looked at his neck to see if I could put him in a chokehold," Armstead said. Once he had the robber under control he administered a lecture, telling him, "It's stupid what you're doing. You're wasting your life ..."

Armstead held the man until police arrived to take him to the DeKalb County Jail. Steve Martin has been charged with armed robbery, according to police.

"What I did was something to stop all the stupidity going on," Armstead said.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

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Milton Council Seeks Therapy (But Only In The Dark)

By DOUG NURSE / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Published on: 07/11/07

A corporate Dr. Phil was supposed to put the dysfunctional Milton City Council on the couch Tuesday, but he canceled the appointment when his doctor-client privilege collided with the First Amendment.

Doug Griest of Atlanta's Management Psychology Group had planned to conduct a team conflict resolution session at City Hall but announced he wouldn't come because The Atlanta Journal-Constitution planned to cover the meeting.

"There's never been a situation like this that we're aware of," said City Attorney Mark Scott. "You have doctor-client privilege running up against the open meetings law. How do we reconcile that? I don't know."

Consequently, the city is paying about $6,400 for an analysis and now isn't sure how to get it. Officials are asking the Georgia Municipal Association if they can meet with Griest in a session closed to the public or at an undisclosed location.

Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said council sessions with a psychologist do not constitute a valid exemption to the state's Open Meetings Act.

"While it's commendable the City Council would want to serve the city better, meeting with a psychologist is not reason to deny public access and oversight," Manheimer said. "These are not private parties. These are public officials doing the public business."

Several members of the council were clearly frustrated at not being able to have their heart-to-heart session with Griest.

"We need this badly," said council member Karen Thurman. "There are some things we need to try to work through. We want him to try to help us fix some of our issues."

The fussing and feuding on the council stands in stark contrast to the pastoral setting of this North Fulton community, an area known for its horse farms, country clubs and mansions.
How bad are things?

Although Milton legally became an incorporated city just seven months ago, three council members, including the mayor, have already had ethics complaints filed against them.
Two council retreats mediated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government have broken down into how-to-get-along sessions.

Obviously, they didn't take.

The council is split 4-3 on issues big and small. Members quarrelled about changes to the city charter, an argument that nearly roped in the governor. Issues drag on forever, such as one case in which the city was asked to authorize sewer extensions to property already surrounded by sewer pipes. The property owner finally gave up.

The council has tried adopting rules to force members to play nice, but the sniping continues, with members sometimes accusing each other of deceit and dishonesty in open meetings.
And Tuesday was just another bad day.

The mayor canceled the meeting, only to have the majority of the council decide to hold it anyway. The result was confusion until city staff tracked down all of the members.
Then, they quibbled about why they were even there, and what they should do.
A weary Mayor Joe Lockwood said the city has set up a police deparment, fire department and court system, among other accomplishments.

"We have done a lot, but it's just overshadowed by all this," Lockwood said.
"If we didn't have all this B.S., we'd be doing well."

Monday, July 09, 2007

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Protect Milton Update

Here is an update from the community group, Protect Milton. Lisa Cauley and other community representatives for Protect Milton, have requested an official environmental investigation of the 116 acre new High School site on Freemanville Road. The Department of Natural Resources and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency have been contacted and through the DNR, the Army Corps of Engineers has also been requested to investigate Chicken Creek, Cooper Sandy Creek, the 2.5 acre Lake, and the Flood Plain associated with these Creeks and Streams on this property, prior to any septic or on site sewer management permitting, approval or premature land disturbance by the Fulton County Board of Education. We are awaiting a response from these Government Agencies and insist our formal request is granted since Chicken Creek/Cooper Sandy Creek is part of the Little River Watershed and considered State Waters.

Our community group, Protect Milton, would like to propose a question to our community regarding this chosen school site for our City. Is anyone wondering about where your children will be attending High School? If you are under the impression that if you live in Milton your children will automatically attend the much accredited Milton High School, you need to reconsider. There is every indication from the BOE's comments in the newspapers that once the new high school is built, the BOE will shift attendance zones and redistrict. If you moved here so that your children would attend Milton High School, don't count on it. Most likely the majority of our children will be attending the newer, unrecognized school, which will take years to reach the caliber and accreditation of Milton High School, which is ranked 10 in the State and recently 419 Nationally.

This is something to ponder if you are not interested in this school issue, or you have not been thinking about this school site, since it may not be near your home, your children are young and it is not on your mind, maybe you don't travel down Freemanville Road or the surrounding roads on a daily basis, or live near Milton High School now and are not affected by the noise and disruptions from the existing school. All of your tax dollars will build you a new high school, but your children will not be benefiting the most from your tax money by having Milton High School on their resumes for college. Which school do you think the recruiters and colleges will be looking at?

Also, what will this school placement do to dividing our new City. Would it not be more beneficial to have only one High School for Milton since we only have 26,000 residents currently? Or is that the plan? We will have only one high school for Milton, the new one, after they redistrict and shift attendance zones. Alpharetta will have two high schools, Alpharetta High and Milton High? Wake up Milton! It seems we have a High School for our 26,000 residents now, Milton High School. It is Alpharetta that has one high school, Alpharetta High, for 60,000 residents. So who exactly are they building the new high school for? For us? so that Alpharetta students can shift into Milton High School? and our children can go to the new, unknown, unranked, High School. Are we that naive?

We pose this question to the entire community to add to the growing list of legitimate negative reasons as to why this site does not work for our new City. Again we implore the community to really think about the placement of this school, less then 3 miles on the same road as Milton High School. Katie Reeves stated they put two schools this close together in Johns Creek, however, they did this in a highly commercial area, not in the middle of a rural residential area. She is trying to compare apples to apples and it is not so. We are different, are we not? We may need another High School in this area come 2012, but not here on this piece of property. Not on this property for Environmental Reasons. Not on this property out of pure common sense, that it is too close to Milton High School.

What would it take for the BOE to use common sense to plan? Not taking the easiest route by choosing a site for a school solely on the opportunity to purchase a large tract of land from only one owner. Is this how we as citizens expect the BOE responsibly use our tax dollars to pretend to take the time out and really study our area and find property more appropriate for our City? There is land available today on Birmingham Hwy. below the Cherokee County line, 124 acres as a matter of fact, that would be better suited for our City's needs in 2012. If the developers can continue to find land all over Milton and build neighborhoods, then would it not be even easier for the BOE since they have complete jurisdiction, to find land to build a school on a more appropriate site?

The most financially responsible decision would be to remodel the old Milton High School. Katie Reeves stated in the paper that this idea would be more costly and they could not move the existing 450 students and staff. How could it be more expensive to remodel on property you already own? The stadium and ball fields already exist and the school is on sewer. They already have the remodeling plans completed from previously when they were going to remodel it, instead they built the new Milton High School at a tune of $70+ Million. All they would have to do is implement the remodeling plans or update them some. How can this idea be more costly then purchasing acreage, excavating, putting in a commercial septic system, building a new stadium and ball fields, and building the school itself.

The current Independent Students at the old Milton High School can move to the now vacant Kings Ridge Christian School site in the Alpharetta Shopping Center. This site is more appropriate for 450 students and staff over an entire High School that is not being fully utilized as it should be and was meant to be. This idea should be instilled not denied over moving 450 students. So it is more important not to move 450 students to a better environment and then rebuild this school for 1800 + students. Where in this picture do our students come first? It is inconceivable not to go back into the old Milton High School and rebuild.

It seems the BOE is more concerned about not having anyone tell them what to do and protecting their so called jurisdiction then doing what is morally right for our community and our City. How can they have a motto, "where Students come first" when they don't seem care about the parents of these students and the placement of this school? We have all given them this ability to do as they please because we have all given them the bank account to back their decisions with no check and balance. What other Federal Government Agency in America can claim over a $700 million dollar budget and have no one to answer to and no accountability even to the tax payers?

So when you read about this school issue and think it doesn't affect you or that it's just a bunch of residents disgruntled since the school is near them, think again. This issue is a City issue. This issue is a tax payer issue. This issue is a moral issue to do the right thing. There is other land available and the BOE can purchase this land with their large surplus and this land could be used as much needed green space or a Park for our City. How about letting our City Council, the Planning Commission, the Planning Committee, and the Citizen's Advisory Committee have the opportunity to do what we the citizens have elected them to do in the first place.

To sign the petition against this school site and to become more involved go to or contact Lisa Cauley at

Friday, July 06, 2007

Milton Acts to Block Adult Businesses

DOUG NURSE/The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 07/04/07

Should the adult entertainment industry come calling on the new city of Milton, it will find the city has rolled up the welcome mat — and slammed the door besides.

That's the city's view, at least. An attorney says he isn't sure the city could get its way in a court fight. Then again, no adult businesses are knocking on the slammed door in this largely rural area north of Alpharetta and west of Ga. 400.

How do strip clubs and adult video stores manage to stay in business in communities where they are unwelcome?The answer is based on competing legal principles:

Free speech: Federal courts have said a city must zone a percentage of its property to accommodate adult businesses on the grounds of "protected speech."
Community standards: Courts also have said governments can protect against prostitution, drugs and crime. That allows the government to use zoning and licensing rules to dictate where adult businesses can locate and how they operate.
The compromise: Local governments can't use zoning to run off adult businesses. In fact, the courts require that local governments set aside a number of sites where adult businesses can go.
If Milton has figured out a way to keep out the adult video stores, it will have pre-empted a fight that has nettled other young cities of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek. Both cities are entangled in court battles with sexually oriented businesses. In Johns Creek, the battle over the opening of the Love Shack video store began even before the city began operations Dec. 1.

In Milton, adult businesses can only locate in areas zoned for industrial and commercial businesses. And the city bars sexually oriented businesses within 500 feet of agricultural or residential property.

Put together, the only places left are along Windward Parkway from Ga. 9 to Deerfield Parkway — where properties have deed restrictions banning adult businesses.

In other words, the only places adult businesses are allowed legally are places where they're disallowed by covenant. "That's exactly the way we want it," said City Attorney Mark Scott. "There's a state Supreme Court case that says that's not unconstitutional. So that's that."

The area is part of a 520-acre mixed-use project developed by Hines Interests Limited Partnership, which imposed the deed restrictions in 1997. Also banned by the covenants are junk yards, jails, sewage treatment plants, and iron smelting factories.

Joanne Conley, the spa director of Mind & Body Spa on Windward Parkway, said she likes the deed restrictions.

"Having an adult business locate near here would totally ruin our business," Conley said. "We'd get freaks in here. They would think we are the wrong kind of spa."
Alan Begner, an Atlanta attorney specializing in adult businesses, said he doesn't believe Milton's plan would stand up in court.

But then again, no adult businesses have expressed interest in moving there.
The owner of the Love Shack, John Cornetta, doesn't exactly see rural Milton as a hot prospect.
"What makes these people think I would put an adult store in a farmhouse?" he said. "I'm not going to sell adult DVDs to chickens."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Be Safe, Responsible In Using Fireworks This July 4th

Extremely dry conditions increase risks, require additional caution

With Georgia in the grips of a major drought, the City of Milton urges citizens to be particularly diligent in practicing safe, responsible use of fireworks such as sparklers and other non-explosive fireworks that are legal in the state, during Fourth of July celebrations next week.Public Safety Director Chris Lagerbloom urges residents to make plans to attend a public fireworks display rather than use fireworks at home.

“The extremely dry conditions we are experiencing throughout the region certainly increases the risks associated with fireworks,” Lagerbloom said. “We prefer that people not use fireworks at home, but if you do, please exercise the utmost caution to prevent a tragedy of any kind.”Lagerbloom also notes that residents need to abide by the city’s noise ordinance when it comes to fireworks as well as holiday parties in general. That ordinance restricts noise in residential areas to a maximum of 65 decibels between 7:30 a.m. and 10 p.m., and 60 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.

“And of course, if you consume any amount of alcohol at all, don’t get behind the wheel,” he stressed.In addition to the dangers associated with the dry conditions, personal safety is a major issue when it comes to fireworks. Approximately 7,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year for fireworks related injuries and most of those incidents involve children, according to Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine.Those who choose to use fireworks are urged to follow the safety tips below, provided by Oxendine’s
office and the National Council on Fireworks Safety:

Always read and follow label directions
Have an adult present
Buy from reliable sellers
Use outdoors only
Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket)
Never experiment or make your own fireworks
Light only one firework at a time
Never relight a "dud" firework (wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water)
Never give fireworks to small children
If necessary, store fireworks in a cool and dry place
Dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them in water and then disposing of them in your trash can
Never throw or point fireworks at other people
Never carry fireworks in your pocket
Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers
The shooter should always wear eye protection and never have any part of the body over the firework
Stay away from illegal explosives

Remember to dial 911 for any emergencies Fireworks are unpredictable and injuries can occur even if a person is careful or is under supervision. The best way to avoid injury is to not use fireworks. For additional safety tips and information, visit the National Council on Fireworks Safety at and the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner at
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