Friday, October 25, 2013

Former Milton band director celebrates 80th birthday with alumni.

An ecstatic Leon Cole with his birthday cake.

Courtesy by Ryan Pieroni; The Milton Herald

October 23, 2013

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — On Saturday, Oct. 5, Leon Cole, former band director at Milton High School, was greeted with a standing ovation on his 80th birthday by a hundred of his past students.

And Cole certainly deserved it — both the birthday celebration and the standing ovation.

Donald Kell, the organizer of the celebration, said that the party was "something [the alumni] wanted to do for Mr. Cole for keeping us together all these years."

The group of past band members had been having regular reunions for years, but when it was pointed out that Cole's birthday was coming up, Kell and Mark Broyles stepped up to the plate to organize a celebration.

They reached out to the band's alumni through Facebook, starting a page for the event, and were flooded with responses.

"When I started receiving responses from this Evite that I sent out, it was overwhelming," said Kell, adding that he received RSVPs from people all over the world, from Amsterdam to Saudi Arabia.

Kell then told the story of how he first met Cole. Kell said that when he was struggling with his academics, he was approached by Cole one day and told that he would be in the band next semester.

Cole then took him to the band room to have him pick out an instrument (the baritone sax), and also to tell him that he would, in addition to playing in the band, be Cole's teacher's aide for the advanced band during sixth period. From there, Kell immersed himself in the band, which gave him the opportunities and motivation to succeed in the rest of his high school career.

Kell, decades later, asked Mr. Cole why he did what he did. Cole's response: "I had decided that I was going to help somebody."

Kell added that he found out later that he was "one of hundreds that he did stuff like that for."

"He's a great guy to honor," said Kell. "I just think that he's got to be one of the greatest teachers that the world has ever seen."

During the party, Cole expressed his gratitude to those he once taught.

"This isn't about Milton High School. This is about family, and we're all a family," he said, a sentiment that was echoed by all those attending.

Mailboxes destroyed by vandals at night in Milton .

Courtesy The Milton Herald

October 18, 2013

MILTON, Ga. – Three homes on Sablewood Drive had their mailboxes destroyed Oct. 14.

One victim called police at about 3 a.m. to report people making loud noises on the street and smashing things near the intersection of Sablewood Drive and Northwood Drive.

Several mailboxes were found heavily damaged.

Kids run for fun at local elementary school in Milton.

Students from Crabapple Crossing ran their hearts out as part of the Boosterthon Fun Run Oct. 18 as their parents cheered them on.

Courtesy Jonathan Copsey; The Milton Herald

October 18, 2013

MILTON, Ga. – All morning Oct. 18, the students of Crabapple Crossing engaged in healthy exercise and growing friendships as part of the Boosterthon Fun Run.

The Boosterthon Fun Run is a nine-day program that helps local schools raise needed funds for education while inspiring students to live healthy, character-filled lives.

The Camp High Five theme of this year included daily character lessons that teach the value of respecting others, not bullying and showing sportsmanship. Each lesson is paired with a daily hand gesture that helps make it memorable. The message is also reinforced through a curriculum that includes interactive character videos, catchy songs and a brand-new children's book.

When children adopt treating others with respect into their daily interactions, their behavior changes. As friendship increases, bullying fades away.

The weeklong event culminated in a fun run, where the students ran for pledges and for their parents in the gym.

Don’t forget: MPD holds drug take back Saturday.

Courtesy Milton Police Department

Don’t forget that tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the City of Milton Police Department will take part in the seventh installment of the DEA's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day at the Target on Ga. 9 in Milton.

The Target is located at 13057 Ga. 9 (click here for directions). All forms of prescription drugs will be taken, no matter how old.

During the last DEA-led National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 27, citizens turned in 371 tons (more than 742,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at more than 5,800 sites operated by the DEA and its thousands of state and local law enforcement partners. 
In its six previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners took in over 2.8 million pounds — more than 1,400 tons — of pills.

For more information, contact Community Outreach Officer Ara Baronian at 678-242-2527 or The DEA also maintains a Web page where you can find other drop sites and much more. Find it by clicking here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Senator Albers Visits The Goddard School in Recognition of Georgia Pre-K Week.

Jennifer Yarber, Director
Shawna Mercer, Sr. Communications Specialist

ATLANTA (October 24, 2013) – Senator John Albers (R –Roswell) recently read to a group of students at The Goddard School in Roswell in recognition of Georgia Pre-K Week. This year’s 3rd annual Georgia Pre-K Week ran from Monday, September 30 to Friday, October 4.

“Georgia’s Pre-K program is doing a remarkable job preparing children for grade school and beyond by establishing healthy learning habits at an early age,” said Senator Albers. “I am especially proud of the hard work and dedication of parents and teachers for their continued support and efforts to support early childhood achievement.”

Sponsored by Voices for Georgia’s Children and Pre-K partners throughout the state, Georgia Pre-K Week focuses on the important role of Georgia’s Pre-K program on future academic achievement.

While visiting The Goddard School, Senator Albers read two of his favorite books about firefighters, took a tour of the facility, spoke with teachers and staff, and received an up-close look at the many ways the center is supporting early childhood education. 

“Georgia’s Pre-K program is an exceptional program that can serve as a model for our country,” said Pat Willis, Executive Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children. “About 84,000 four year olds in Georgia benefit from this remarkable program, a milestone in the critical phase of education that takes place from birth to age 8.”

Senator Albers was one of nearly 150 state officials who visited some of the approximately 3,800 Pre-K classrooms located in all 159 counties across Georgia.

# # #
Sen. John Albers serves as Chairman of the State Institutions and Property Committee.  He represents the 56th Senate District which includes portions of North Fulton and Cherokee counties. He may be reached at his office at 404.463.8055 or by email at

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Getting to know Milton's economic development manager.

Courtesy Carolyn Aspenson; The Milton Herald

MILTON, Ga. —When Bill O'Connor started as the city's economic development manager in January, he wasn't new to government employment.

O'Connor spent 38 years in similar positions in New York, Massachusetts and Virginia before moving to Milton.

"We moved here to be closer to our son and his six boys," O'Connor said. "I had retired but I still wanted to do something part-time, and when this opportunity presented itself, I was thrilled."

As the economic development manager, O'Connor is responsible for linking the Milton business community with the city government as well as exposing the city to more business opportunities.

"My main goal for the past several months has been to gain exposure for the city with businesses seeking locations," he said.

O'Connor said he's worked to maintain the city's quality of life standards and find a balance with economic sustainability.

"The city wants to attract new businesses but also maintain a standard of quality equal to the lifestyle of Milton," he said.

Over the past 12 months, the city has approved 146 new business licenses, a 16 percent increase over the previous 12 months, he said.

He doesn't attribute this success to himself.

"The employees and officials of Milton are truly a team," he said. "I am a small part of a big group dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the quality of life in Milton."

City Manager Chris Lagerbloom said O'Connor's position requires someone with good relationship-building skills, and O'Connor has that.

"He's a natural at connecting with people and understanding the big picture and he's a great fit," Lagerbloom said.

O'Connor was instrumental in attracting and securing mobile network and cloud services company Citrix to Milton.

The company, located on Morris Road, Milton, opened its doors in August.

"They currently employ about 125 people and plan to expand to over 250 over the next few years," O'Connor said.

But don't think it's all about attracting big businesses to Milton.

"We want to encourage smaller businesses to open in the city, too," he said. "And we have worked with small businesses to make locating their businesses in Milton easy."

"Rooftops bring business," O'Connor said, "and the city has seen a significant increase in home building over the past year, so we're seeing an increase in businesses coming to Milton now, too."

O'Connor said the city is in excellent condition financially, an important factor for potential businesses.

"Not only is Milton a great place to live, but it's also a great place to work, and I'm excited to see businesses realize the benefits of locating to our city," he said.

Councilman Matt Kunz feels O'Connor is a great addition to the team.

"He's focused on keeping Milton the type of community the residents want but doing so in a way that positively impacts our economic development," he said. "He's definitely moving us in the right direction."

New Poll Up; Old Poll Results

What do you consider "rural"?


We have a new poll up. 

It asks: "What lot size do you consider 'rural'?

Have your say in the right margin today.

Below are results from the past poll. 

Judge Orders City To Hear Crescent Communities Apartment Proposal.

Last year, the Milton City council rejected a proposal to build a 256 apartment complex on Deerfield Parkway. The developer , Crescent Communities, took them to court and won forcing Milton to reconsider an application under its Form-Based Code.

The proposal calls for 128 one-bedroom and 128 two-bedroom apartments in 12 three-story buildings on a 20-acre property which borders Walmart, Frys, and Milton City Hall.

Milton's concerns include:

The entire first floor to be used for non-residential functions or residential lobbies, leasing offices, fitness centers, or multi-purpose rooms serving the Residential Function, or
More than 50 percent of the total floor area is dedicated to office, retail, or lodging functions.
The city's Design Review Board even suggested some tenants could include Starbucks, Laundromat and an eatery.

The other concern is storage space. The proposed apartments have no storage space and 300 square feet feet is required, leave the possibility of storage needs overflowing to outside of the dwelling. 

The Milton Planning Commission and the Community Development staff also recommended that City Council turn down the proposal.

No word yet on how much space has been reserved for horses and gardens. 

You can review the entire proposal in pdf format here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Did you lose a bet? Alpharetta mayor gets cafeteria duty.

Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle wore a Milton T-shirt to perform cafeteria duty at Milton High Oct. 9 after Alpharetta High lost to Milton

Courtesy Jonathan Copsey; The Milton Herald

October 10, 2013
MILTON, Ga. – Losing a bet is always bad – more so when you're the mayor of Alpharetta.

For the second year in a row, Milton's Mayor Joe Lockwood and Alpharetta's Mayor David Belle Isle have wagered on the outcome of the Milton High and Alpharetta High football game.

The two teams played each other Aug. 30, when Milton beat Alpharetta in overtime.

Just like last year, the loser – Belle Isle again – had to serve lunch at the winner's school. Always a good sport, Belle Isle donned an apron and plastic gloves Oct. 9 and got to work dishing out vittles to MHS kids while Lockwood happily cheered him on, all in good fun.

"When you look at the Milton and Alpharetta game, everyone is a big community," said MHS Principal Cliff Jones.

Milton Driver arrested for DUI with 3 kids in car .

Victoria Lynn Tucker.

October 11, 2013

MILTON, Ga. – A Chief Vann Drive woman was arrested in Milton Oct. 5 for allegedly driving drunk with three young children in the car at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

Police say they saw a blue Hyundai Tucson driving on Ga. 9 near Bethany Bend. It was swerving dramatically, nearly driving on the grass at one point.

The officer pulled over the driver, Victoria Lynn Tucker, 42, of Chief Vann Drive, Alpharetta, who appeared drunk.

"I could not understand anything the driver was saying to me," noted the officer. He also reported Tucker had difficulty keeping her eyes open.

Tucker allegedly failed the sobriety tests and was arrested for DUI.

In the back seat of her car were three young children, two of which were not hers. All three children were turned over to adults.

When searching the vehicle, police allegedly found an open bottle of Smirnov vodka with a receipt dated for 10:10 a.m. that morning.

Tucker was charged with DUI, endangering the life of children, driving with an open container of alcohol and failure to maintain lane.

Google Maps spots thief Birmingham Highway in Milton .


October 11, 2013
MILTON, Ga. – Google Maps may have given a clue as to who stole $1,150 worth of items from a vacant Birmingham Highway lot.

The victim told police that he arrived at his property Oct. 2 to find a storage shed broken into. He said there were pry marks around the door and latch. This is the fifth time the shed was broken into.

Taken were a metal desk, pressure washer, air blower and air compressor. While there are no suspects, the victim said he was searching on Google Maps' Street View, which allows users to view properties from a street angle, and he saw an unknown white Chevy pickup truck parked on his property two months ago in front of his shed.

Firewood For Sale.

Firewood for sale. Pine and Hardwood available. Fill standard truck bed for only $60.00. Will deliver in North Fulton for additional $20.00. 

770 653 0552

Milton's new K-9 to start soon.

Milton Police Officer Christopher Ward shows off his new K-9 companion, Branco.

Courtesy Carolyn Aspenson;

October 18, 2013

MILTON, Ga. - Officer Christopher Ward, Milton's newest K-9 officer, introduced his new K-9 partner, Branco, to the Citizens' Police Academy Oct. 16.

The purebred, all-black German shepherd will replace the previous K-9 DaSilva, who retired in December 2012.

Branco is ready to begin his job but won't start for a few more weeks.

"He's trained," Ward said. "But he is waiting on me."

Recent Carolyn Aspenson

The dog was born on May 27, 2012 in Holland, where he spent several months under evaluation before beginning training.

"A dog is either a working dog or not," Ward said. "Branco is definitely a working dog, and he's excited to get started."

Ward and the 90-pound dog spend about 12 hours a day in an intense program to bring Ward up to speed.

"Branco is a full-service patrol dog," Ward said. "So I've got a lot to learn."
He said the dog is trained in apprehension, narcotics detection and tracking.

Ward said that during work hours, Branco would be all work, but once he's home, he will be free to play with Ward's other dogs.

If Branco stays healthy, he will likely be a part of the department until he's about 7 or 8 years old.

"Patrol dogs need to be 100 percent," Ward said. "As they age, the work becomes harder on them and that's not beneficial to the dog or the department."

Lt. Travis Parker said he feels Ward is the perfect patrolman for the K-9 division.

"To be a K-9 handler requires a special type of person," Parker said. "A person who is dedicated and committed, and Chris is that man."

Community Outreach Officer Ara Baronian agreed.

"Chris approached us about being the new K-9 handler," he said. "He wanted this and it really wasn't a question for any of us."

Both Ward and Baronian worked to raise money for the program, organizing the department's first annual golf tournament held at the Echelon Golf Club in Alpharetta on May 1.

The tournament raised about $30,000.

"Officer Ward really wanted this program to continue," Parker said. "And his efforts, along with the efforts of Officer Baronian were successful."

Milton resident Claudine Wilkins is working to raise money to purchase Branco a bulletproof vest through Project Paws Alive, an organization that provides protective vests to law enforcement and military K-9s nationwide.

"He's an officer just like his partner," she said. "And he should have the same protection."
Wilkins said one resident has already committed $250 to the purchase.

"We're working on a plan of action to move forward with the fundraiser at this time," she said.

"Branco's safety is as important as mine," Ward said. "And it would be great to have protective gear for him."

Branco will be formally introduced to the department once Ward has completed training.

For more information on how to donate for the purchase of Branco's vest, contact Wilkins and Associates at

Better Together collects coats for NFCC drive.

Milton’s Better Together volunteer committee will join North Fulton Community Charities (NFCC) to collect gently used coats, jackets, hats, scarves and gloves through Oct. 29.
The following locations have been designated as drop-off points:
“We are hopeful Milton’s residents will make a special effort to donate needed items to this worthy cause,” said Teri Harrison, a Better Together member and Milton resident coordinating the coat drive. “Help bring the gift of warmth to families in the North Fulton area this fall and winter.”
Eden Purdy of NFCC said last year more than 1,200 coats and jackets were distributed to 274 families. This year’s drive is expected to reach more than 300 families, she said.
If you would like to donate but are unable to deliver items to the above locations, please contact Community Builder Wayne Boston at 678-242-2512 or and he will make arrangements for pick-up.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Eagle Scouts for Milton District.

From left are William McDaniel, Parker Blackwell, Andrew Hartnett and Matthew D'Amico.

Courtesy Jonathan Copsey; The Milton Herald

October 16, 2013

NORTH FULTON, Ga. – The Milton Boy Scout District (cities of Roswell, Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Milton) is proud to announce its newest Eagle Scouts, who passed their Board of Review on Aug. 29. These are Scouts from the cities of Milton and Alpharetta who passed their Eagle Board of Reviews:

William McDaniel, of Troop 69, was sponsored by Alpharetta First United Methodist Church. His project was the design and construction of a brick fire ring/pit for the Alpharetta United Methodist Church Youth Center. McDaniel also designed and constructed three wooden sets of stair to ease entering three portable sheds all located at Alpharetta First United Methodist Church.

Parker Blackwell, of Troop 30000, was sponsored by Birmingham United Methodist Church. His project was the design and construction of an arbor with a swing at the memorial garden located at Birmingham United Methodist Church. Blackwell also added landscaping around this garden.

Andrew Hartnett, of Troop 30000, was sponsored by Birmingham United Methodist Church. His project was the design and construction of two cold frame greenhouse structures that can also be opened for air flow at Northwestern Middle School.

Matthew D'Amico, of Troop 30000, was sponsored by Birmingham United Methodist Church. His project was the design and construction of a demonstration garden for the National Wildlife Federation at Thompson Road Firehouse. D'Amico also added an arbor and birdbath to his newly constructed garden.

City moves forward on roundabout in Milton.

Courtesy Jonathan Copsey; The Milton Herald

October 11, 2013

MILTON, Ga. — At their Oct. 7 meeting, Milton Council approved $125,000 for the expansion of the intersection of Birmingham Highway and Providence Road.

The city reached a settlement for the condemnation of 0.430 acres of right of way and 0.296 acres of permanent construction and maintenance easement and 0.019 acres of temporary construction easement from New Providence LLC, in the amount of $125,000.

On Feb. 8, the city declared its intent to take the plot of land for the intersection project. Judgment was entered in the amount of $125,000 as just and adequate compensation in this case.

The intersection is currently a dangerous one, being without a traffic signal and only a stop sign on Providence Road. There is also a hill on Birmingham Highway, reducing sight of oncoming traffic.

The improvements will include realigning the roads and putting in a roundabout.

Also at the meeting, councilmembers unanimously approved an ordinance for the New Cingular Wireless, PCS cell tower located at 13700 Ga. 9, just south of Bethany Bend

The approval included an increase of 10 feet in tower height, thus making the tower reach 185 feet, and a two-part variance consisting of reducing the tower setback from 26 and 20 feet for the eastern and northern property lines, respectively, and a reduction in the required landscape strip from 20 feet to 10 feet.

The existing facility – a self-storage business with a tower – currently supports four wireless carriers: Sprint, Clearwire, MetroPCS and T-Mobile. SBA Communications owns and manages the facility. AT&T has leased a portion of the site from SBA for the colocation of antennas on the tower structure and the location of accessory ground equipment.

City seeks veterans' information for Veterans Day.

The City of Milton will once again display commemorative markers for the two weeks surrounding Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11, and in preparation is adding veterans into the city's registry of service men and women.

The markers will surround Freedom Park at the corner of Deerfield Parkway and Webb Road, which will officially open on Veterans Day, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. More information about the opening ceremony will be available in late October.

Through five years of hard work and the generosity of residents, Milton has amassed a list of 586 living and fallen veterans, 335 of whom are memorialized with markers to be placed on Deerfield Parkway and Crabapple Road from Nov. 3 through Nov. 17. Any deceased veteran of a Milton family is qualified to be honored with a marker. Information on living veterans will be used for recognition purposes. Living veterans DO NOT receive markers. There is NO CHARGE for the service.

Each year residents ask how their family members may be added to the registry. The city does not have access to a government database revealing who served in the military. Instead, we need you to tell us.

If you, a friend or someone in your family is or was a veteran, please fill out the attached form below. You may drop it off at City Hall, fax it to 678-242-2499 or mail it to:   

Milton City Hall
13000 Deerfield Parkway
Suite 107A
Milton, GA 30004
Attn: Jason Wright

There is also an online form available anytime at the City of Milton Web site. You may either click here or go to To access the form, click on the "Find a Form or Permit" tab at the top of the page and choose "Register military veterans' information" from the "Online Forms" section at the top of the page.

Once you give the City of Milton the information, it will be placed in a secure database. The names will then be sent to City Councilman Bill Lusk, who for five years has personally built, painted, engraved and placed the markers at his own expense.

The names will then also be used in the City of Milton's yearly Memorial Day service.
Please note: Only veterans who have passed away receive markers. Living veterans will have their service recognized with inclusion in lists printed for Memorial and Veterans days.

Adopt-A-Stream program kickoff Oct. 23.

Milton Grows Green recently launched an Adopt-A-Stream program, and the first meeting to discuss its goals and techniques will be held Wednesday, Oct. 23 starting at 6:30 p.m.

This kick-off meeting will take place at Milton's City Hall, 13000 Deerfield Parkway, Suite 107 (click here for directions). For those who want to become certified in water-quality testing, please plan to stay until 9 p.m.

There is no charge for the training.

A statewide project of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the Adopt-A-Stream program aims to educate residents about water quality issues and provide training in the evaluation and protection of local waterways. 

This program is open to Milton residents looking for training on how to monitor local streams using techniques and test kits provided by Fulton County.

To register or for more information please e-mail or contact Cindy Eade, environmental sustainability coordinator for the City of Milton, at 678-242-2509.

Monday, October 14, 2013

MPD holds drug take back Oct. 26 at Target.

Courtesy City of Milton Police Department

The City of Milton Police Department will take part in the seventh installment of the DEA's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Saturday, Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Target on Ga. 9 in Milton.

The Target is located at 13057 Ga. 9 (click here for directions). All forms of prescription drugs will be taken, no matter how old.

During the last DEA-led National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 27, citizens turned in 371 tons (more than 742,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at more than 5,800 sites operated by the DEA and its thousands of state and local law enforcement partners.  

In its six previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners took in over 2.8 million pounds - more than 1,400 tons - of pills.

For more information, contact Community Outreach Officer Ara Baronian at 678-242-2527 or The DEA also maintains a Web page where you can find other drop sites and much more. Find it by clicking here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Milton Widening Bethany Road; No Notice Given To Affected Residents.

Some Bethany Residents say their voices were not considered in unexpected road widening.

By Tim Enloe;

Starting Monday, Bethany Road between Mayfield and Providence will be getting a face lift as well as widening between 1 foot to 16 inches on both sides.

Construction will occur between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday until the middle of November.  Motorists should expect heavy traffic delays. 

Bethany Road is an open road neighborhood which is home to over 44 families with parcels ranging in size from two to ninety acres. Many longtime residents are bothered that no notice or consideration was given prior, with unexpected marking crews walking into and marking eight to ten feet into yards. 

When contacted by one neighbor as to why no notice was given, a City of Milton staff member responded that the information "was on the city website."

Within the last thirty days, two wrecks have transpired at the intersection of Mayfield and Bethany and one hit and run took out over fifty feet of one resident's fence as well as a neighboring mail box. 

Some believe the widening will do nothing but increase the already incredibly high speeds which have been widely ignored by local authorities since the city incorporated in 2006.

For more information, contact Angie Kapijimpanga with Milton's Department of Public Works at (678) 297-2562 or

Friday, October 11, 2013

Better Together hosts Jan Jones at City Hall Oct. 24.

Milton’s Better Together volunteer organization will host a legislative update from state House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones at Milton’s City Hall Thursday, Oct. 24.

Jones will discuss important issues facing the state Legislature and topics important to Milton residents. She will then take questions from the audience.

This meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers of Milton’s City Hall 13000 Deerfield Parkway, suite 107A (click here for directions).

A Milton resident, Jones was first elected to the state House in 2003. She has distinguished herself as a passionate advocate for changing lives and increasing economic opportunities through improved public education and a government closer to the people. 

Jones made history when she was elected as the first female Speaker Pro Tem in the Georgia House of Representatives. Her district covers northwest Fulton, including Milton, Mountain Park, and portions of Roswell and Alpharetta.  

Better Together is a volunteer organization of Milton residents looking for unique and fun ways to connect with neighbors.  If you would like more information on Better Together or any of its activities, please visit the group’s Facebook page or contact Community Builder Wayne Boston at 678-242-2512 or

Prison Programs Provide Second Chances For Inmates And Horses.

AM NOTE: It is too bad that the City of Milton Georgia has chosen to put image before substance. There is nothing worse than wasted potential. 

After his involvement in the James River Correctional Facility’s Second Chances program, Tamio Holmes was released from prison in 2011 and started his own farrier business in Hanover County, Va. Photo by Debby Thomas


Across the nation, equestrian programs built around everything from rodeos to rehoming Thoroughbreds to training wild mustangs are helping rehabilitate the incarcerated.

When Tamio Holmes was sentenced to prison on drug dealing charges in 2003, he hit rock bottom. He’d already spent more than two years behind bars starting in 1998, and now he was facing another eight.

“I felt like, ‘Screw you,’ ” Holmes says of the day the judge sentenced him.

That moment of raw anger peppered with indifference eventually turned to numbness as prison life became his everyday reality. Days slipped into months, and more than five years passed. But finally Holmes got a break that would ultimately reverse the negative trajectory of his life.

It came, poetically enough, because of others who also needed a hand: Thoroughbred horses. Holmes would find his rehabilitation—and eventually a career as a farrier—in helping to prepare the horses for new lives. The long days of feeding, grooming, exercising the horses and taking classes on their care gave Holmes a renewed sense of purpose.

“It was exhausting, but I couldn’t wait to get up the next morning every day and get back out,” Holmes says. “I was helping them, and they were helping me feel better about myself.”

Holmes is one of 50 inmates to graduate since the Second Chances program at the James River Correctional Center near Richmond, Va., was created in 2007. Run in cooperation with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, the program saves former race horses from possible abuse and slaughter. It’s just one of several inmate-horse rehabilitation programs run by the foundation and other entities around the nation.

Anne Tucker, board president of the foundation’s James River chapter, observes the transformation of Holmes and many other inmates. She says the bonds between the inmates and the horses create a sense of self-worth.

“The inmates come in and work with the horses and start to think, ‘I’m not all bad. Maybe I’m not totally useless,’ ” Tucker says, adding that the offenders—inmates who committed only non-violent crimes—learn not just job skills, but a sense of community.

As for the horses, they vary. Some are young and fresh off the track; others are in their 20s. In five years, James River has placed 26 of them. A few horses have the potential to compete again in second careers, while the reality for others is simply a lifetime of pasture ornamentation. Whatever their abilities, Tucker says, James River has a place for all horses to be loved.

For Holmes, the program brought back good memories of his boyhood in rural Louisiana.
“We had horses when I was a kid,” he says. “So horses were always kind of like a friend to me. More than that—like a partner.”

Holmes says deep down in his heart, he was a good kid, raised by a loving grandmother, though life could be tough at times.

“Everything you had, you had to work hard for,” he says. “We made do with what we had.”
When he grew up, Holmes imagined a more prosperous life for himself in the Richmond area. But when he got there, he only found low-paying labor jobs and a party lifestyle fueled by drugs. “I chose to hang out with people I shouldn’t be around,” Holmes admits. “They weren’t my true friends. I was just trying to impress people.”

Those days ended with a ride to prison, and working with the horses was a privilege Holmes earned. He tried hard to be a model inmate, steering clear of trouble. He hit a low in 2010 when his grandmother died, and he was unable to attend her funeral. But he took solace in the fact that his grandmother knew he was in the Second Chances program and was already starting to turn his life around.

“Overall, I found, I was a good person,” says Holmes, who was released from prison in early 2011. “I made some bad decisions. I can’t change that, but I would advise others that there is always hope. There are other options. I look back and think, ‘I should have struggled harder in hard times.’ Now I’m going for what’s good in life.”

And the program taught him something else as well: That there are people out there who don’t give up on former convicts. Holmes wants to repay their kindness, adding that there’s something particularly special about people who love horses.

“I’ve met some of the best people in the world doing this,” he says. “The majority of them are kind and tender-hearted. I think that’s maybe because they’ve had struggles somewhere in their lives, and they know what it means to receive a helping hand.”

Behind Bars, Trophy Buckle Dreams

There does seem to be something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man, and when this famous Winston Churchill quote is mentioned to Warden Burl Cain, who’s media savvy and charismatic in the style of the best evangelic preachers and Louisiana politicians, he nods in agreement.

Cain initiated the equestrian program at Angola Prison in southern Louisiana and looks at horses as valuable, non-judgmental teachers that help offenders learn two important things: The first is patience. “The second thing they learn is that aggression is not an option,” Cain says. 

A visit to the Angola Prison Rodeo or Horse Sale, which take place a two-hour drive from the vibrant heart of New Orleans, is like a good Cajun filé gumbo—there’s a lot to digest.

An open mind and open checkbook are a must for visitors at Angola’s semi-annual events. If you’re inclined, you can bring home an offender-trained sport horse with a Louisiana State Penitentiary registered brand on its hip. For collectors of prison ephemera, there’s a wide variety of prison art for sale directly from inmate artists. Or you can sample fried Coca-Cola while listening to a gospel band of “lifers” play “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” The Angola Prison Rodeo, held every Sunday in October, is nothing if not a spectacle. 

Officially called the Louisiana State Penitentiary but better known as LSP, “Alcatraz of the South” or “The Farm,” Angola is the largest maximum security prison in the nation. It was once also known as the bloodiest. But for the inmates involved in Angola’s equestrian program, it’s exciting to see the prison earning a new reputation, best known for hosting “The Wildest Show in the South.” This year marks the 47th anniversary of the longest-running prison rodeo in the country.

Angola’s rough riders are ¼ cowboy and ¾ gladiator, natural-born risk takers with nothing to lose and a trophy buckle badge of honor to win. The Farm is a place where sinners mounted on horseback can become winners again.

After the rodeo lights on autumn weekends have dimmed, however, Angola’s less raucous annual horse sale, which began in 2010 and is held the third weekend in April, showcases the prison’s own breeding program; the inmates work with Dutch Warmblood, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Percheron bloodlines and train young horses as prospects for sport horses, ranch horses, trail mounts, pony horses at the racetrack or training center, pleasure and service animals.

In this year’s edition of the auction, 80 Angola horses sold, going for between $300 and $3,500. Some go to police for mounted patrol units throughout the country, a Dutch Warmblood-cross from last year’s sale has become a ribbon-winning show jumper, and this year foxhunting folks from as far away as Maryland left with Percheron-Thoroughbred crosses in tow.

Israel Ducré, a longtime resident at Angola, worked with race horses in his former life on the outside. With 22½ years served under his “All Around Cowboy, Angola Prison Rodeo, 2003” belt buckle, he says training horses makes the sentence more bearable. It’s hard for him to watch the horses he’s trained be sold off to new homes—at this year’s auction he said he’ll be especially sad to see a bay wearing hip tag 703, a gelding he named Little Pen (short for Little Penitentiary), leave. But Ducré can’t imagine not being involved with the program.

While many prisons are known more as rehabilitation facilities, Angola isn’t one. The billboard just outside its security fence that reads, “You are entering the Land of New Beginnings,” is, unfortunately, not a reality for most of the facility’s inmates. In fact, over 90 percent of the men who enter will die there.

But for inmates like Ducré, working with horses gives them a reason to keep going and a means to give back to society. And for the ones who will eventually rejoin it someday, the experience will have equipped them for a whole new kind of life.

Saving Mustangs And Men

A similar story is unfolding in Colorado, where inmates take on the tough task of befriending and training American mustangs as part of the Wild Horse Inmate Program. Unlike Angola, however, Colorado’s program is comprised of minimum-security prisoners who are brought from their respective correctional facilities to Cañon City, the largest short-term mustang holding and training facility in the nation.

The program, called WHIP, began in 1985 and has grown from including a few hundred wild horses to thousands, according Brian Hardin, who oversees the program. To date, more than 5,000 mustangs have been trained through WHIP.

Known for the toughness that’s allowed them to thrive in the American West’s harsh conditions for hundreds of years, the horses run free on property administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

Through WHIP, inmates are taught to select wild horses and halter break or train them for western riding and use as trail, youth and handicapped or therapeutic program mounts. Some are used in the Wounded Warrior wellness program at the U.S. Air Force Academy Equestrian Center, just north of Colorado Springs. The project helps troops heal from the physical and mental damages of war.

“They’re good horses,” says Billy Jack Barrett, director of the USAFA Equestrian Center, adding that he’s also heartened to know a few inmates who have turned their lives around through WHIP, some of them finding careers in the horse industry. Many others are still riding.

Allen Heinze, who is serving six years in Canon City for robbery, never had prior experience with horses. Now the WHIP program at the Colorado Correctional Industries-run prison is teaching him to train horses for use by the U.S. Border Patrol. He’s learning everything there is to know about them, from anatomy to feeding to training a horse fresh off the range.

When a horse is selected for training, it has never had contact with a human before. It often takes days or weeks—even a month—before a horse will simply let a person lay a hand on it. Halter training comes next.

“We work on getting that horse to face up or square with us,” Heinze explains, adding it’s a long time before a saddle finally goes on, let alone a rider.
The process is arduous, but rewarding, Heinze adds. “It teaches profound patience.”

This article was originally published in the October 2012 edition of The Chronicle Connection. To learn more about the Connection and view a sample issue, go to


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Milton’s Rivers Alive cleanup planned for Oct. 19.

Courtesy City of Milton

Join volunteers from across Milton on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the city’s annual “Rivers Alive” waterways cleanup, education and protection program.

The Milton Grows Green Committee (MGG) is co-sponsoring the event with Bailey Farm & Gardens, Inc., which has been involved with the project for 16 years. Rivers Alive 2013 will kick off from its traditional location at Bailey Farm & Gardens, 255 Hickory Flat Road, one mile west of the Birmingham Crossroads.
Click here for directions.

Volunteers will gather at 9 a.m. then clean up identified streams, roadways and school sites to help keep our city and waterways pure and beautiful. Everyone, regardless of age, is welcome. Depending on age and capabilities, volunteers will be assigned to predetermined local waterways to remove debris deposited from upstream and left by passers-by. Waders and boots will be a plus for those who want to get in the river.
For information or to register for the clean-up as a group or individual, please contact Milton Grows Green at or e-mail You may also contact Cindy Eade, environmental sustainability coordinator for the City of Milton, at 678-242-2509.

The Rivers Alive Cleanup is a unique, hands-on opportunity to learn more about our Coosa River watershed and help improve the quality of our drinking water. The mission of Rivers Alive is to create awareness and involvement in the preservation of Georgia's 70,150 miles of water resources through local waterway cleanup events that include streams, rivers, lakes, beaches and wetlands. It is an outreach program of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

City Council says goodbye to Councilman Large.

At its Oct. 7 meeting, Milton’s City Council said goodbye to City Councilman Lance Large, who stepped down from his elected post.

Council presented Large with a plaque commemorating his service to the community.
Large recently moved back Virginia for business. Former Councilman Rick Mohrig will assume his seat after the certification of the Nov. 5 election results. He ran unopposed for the vacant seat.

Milton Police earn recertification.

At the Oct. 7 City Council meeting, Milton’s Police Department received state recertification from the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

Pictured is, from left, Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan, City of Milton Police Accreditation Manager Katherine Fies and Milton Police Chief Deborah Harrell. Grogan was on hand to give Milton the award.

State certification is neither easy nor simple. It requires compliance with a set of policies covering eight distinct areas of law enforcement: the agency’s role; organization and management; personnel; legal; operations; support services; communications; and holding areas.

Only 15 percent of eligible state agencies accomplish certification. Milton initially earned the honor in 2010.
Milton earned recertification by meeting a set of 129 law enforcement standards reviewed by a team of assessors from across the state.

Recertification also means continued savings for taxpayers in the form of state-mandated insurance payments. In 2006 GACP partnered with the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency (GIRMA) to provide special rate-reduction incentives to State Certified municipalities that have achieved and maintained their status. These rate reductions can decrease liability premiums by up to 20 percent.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Milton 'Monkey Man' dies.

Courtesy Appen Newspapers

September 24, 2013
MILTON, Ga.--Dean Riopelle, known to many in the city of Milton as the "monkey man," passed away the morning of Sept 24.

Riopelle had been in a coma since suffering a heart attack last week.

Facebook updates from friends state he showed no brain activity and the family planned to remove him from life support but the circumstances surrounding his death at this time are unknown.

Riopelle, 53, battled surrounding Milton residents to gain city approval for a wildlife preserve on his property to house over 20 exotic animals.

He received approval earlier this year.

He was an owner and President of The Masquerade, a popular downtown concert venue and the lead singer of the band the Impotent Sea Snakes, a rock and roll band known for their sexually explicit lyrics and performances.

An avid Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, Riopelle attended the University of Florida where he was a boxer and a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

He was a football coach with the Alpharetta Youth Association and friends say was actively involved in helping children with cancer.

Riopelle is survived by his mother and two sons.

Funeral arrangements are not available at this time.

Crabapple robber caught in Baton Rouge.

Courtesy Jonathan Copsey; The Milton Herald

October 07, 2013
ATLANTA – The man wanted in two robberies in the Crabapple area last week has been arrested in Louisiana.

Vincent Anthony Baiamonte III, 27, of Hammond, La., and with ties to the Houston, Texas area, was arrested yesterday evening, Sunday, Oct. 6 at Baton Rouge, La. as a result of tips received from the public.

Baiamonte is charged with armed robbery and aggravated assault by the Alpharetta Public Safety Department in connection with the armed robbery of a Wells Fargo bank Sept. 30. In addition, Baiamonte is also charged by the Roswell Police Department for armed robbery of a CVS store which occurred Oct. 1. Federal charges against Baiamonte are anticipated.

On Monday, Sept. 30, at approximately 7 p.m., a lone man entered the CVS store, located at 12070 Crabapple Rd., Roswell, and, while brandishing a handgun, attempted a robbery. No injuries were reported during this attempted robbery.

The next day, Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 11:13 a.m., this same man entered the Wells Fargo bank, located at 12450 Crabapple Road, Alpharetta, and again brandished the same silver-colored handgun while announcing a robbery. After obtaining an undisclosed amount of money, the robber departed the bank without further incident.

Baiamonte is currently being held by Baton Rouge, Louisiana authorities where he will await extradition back to Fulton County to face these charges.

Afternoon toddy leads to arrest in Milton.

Courtesy Milton Herald

October 07, 2013

MILTON, Ga. – A 50-year-old man was arrested for drunken driving Sept. 26 after he was stopped for speeding through a school zone during the middle of the day.

Police say Scott M. Pranger, 50, of Stirling Glen Court, Milton, was seen at 2:15 p.m. speeding along Cogburn Road near Hopewell Middle School. He was clocked going 40 mph in a school zone.

When police pulled him over, Pranger allegedly smelled of alcohol. He also failed sobriety tests and was arrested for DUI. A search of Pranger's car turned up four empty beer bottles beneath his car seat. In the glove box, police found one unopened bottle and a cold beer bottle near the passenger seat.

Pranger was arrested for DUI, driving with open containers of alcohol and speeding.

Questions arise about use of private property for special events.

Courtesy Carolyn Aspenson;

October 04, 2013

MILTON, Ga. — Fortitude Farm owner Jeff Runner applied for a use permit to hold special events at an existing house located on the property, but records show events are already being held there.

"Mr. Runner has applied for a three-part variance for the property," Milton Communications Manager Jason Wright said. "The application is in the initial stages and no decision has been made."

The property, at 13835 Hopewell Rd., is a horse farm with about 10 acres and an additional building called the Yellow House.

"The owner has asked for the deletion of a required fence and a buffer and the time frame required for the permit renewal," Wright said.

Wright said the fence is required, so neighboring homes are blocked from seeing events, but the owner is requesting that it be removed.

"The owner feels the buffer will block the view of the horse farm from the venue," Wright said.

A concerned resident called the paper and said the property owner is already renting out the building and the city is letting him.

"We have researched this issue," Wright said. "And that is not the case."

Wright said the property owner previously leased the property to a woman who then used the home for an event venue without his knowledge.

He said the owner was approached by people who had already paid his renter to use the property for weddings.

"Since he did not receive the money himself, he was within his legal right to have the weddings on the property if he so chose," Wright said. "Any property owner can have a wedding or get together at their home."

Because he didn't receive any compensation for them, no city laws were broken.

In May 2011, the Roswell Childhood Development Association held its annual Down Home Derby charity event at the location, but Wright said that's also within compliance with the law.

"Per code, the property can have two special events per year as long as they were permitted as single use through the city," Wright said.

Wright said Runner received a single use special event permit for that event along with a horse show, held on a different date.

"The horse show one was also monitored by a code enforcement officer to ensure they stayed within the restrictions of the permit," he said.

Runner did not return calls seeking a comment.

New home growth in Milton.

Courtesy Carolyn Aspenson; Appen Newspapers

October 04, 2013

MILTON, Ga. – Milton new home construction permits increased in 2012, and the city expects them to continue to rise for the remainder of 2013.

In 2012, Milton approved 317 new residential building permits. To date this year, the number is 210.

"We obviously can't determine a final number for this year at this time," City Planner Robyn MacDonald said.

In 2007, there were 603 permits issued, but the number dropped significantly in 2008 to 189.

Recent Carolyn Aspenson

MacDonald said the numbers have increased since 2009, when only 44 permits were issued.

She said there are currently about eight builders in Milton with new and existing communities building or preparing to build about 337 new homes, with about 40 of those being townhomes.

"Ryland has 76 homes at The Manor at Hopewell," MacDonald said.

The other communities range from about five to 63 homes.

The city factors these numbers along with the population increase into developmental planning such as traffic patterns and roadwork, parks and recreation development and the city budget.

"The increase in homebuilding permits is an expected trend for the city of Milton, and our numerous long- and short-term plans contemplate the growth," said Jason Wright, communications manager for the city of Milton.

"Our population doubled between the Census of 2000 and 2010, and we do not by any means expect it to stagnate, which is a good thing because it indicates our desirability," he said. "Thus, our Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Parks and Recreation Master Plan and Comprehensive Transportation lay out long-term growth strategies that contemplate the type of numbers we're now seeing."

Wright said the city's three-year strategic plan works in concert with the long-term plans to achieve residents' desired outcomes.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Full weekend ahead for Milton and Alpharetta Oct. 5.

September 30, 2013 by Madison Thorburn-Gundlach;

NORTH FULTON, Ga. – Milton and Alpharetta are both in for a busy weekend on Oct. 5-6. The near future holds the 8th annual Scarecrow Harvest, the Alpharetta Brew Moon Festival, Crabapple Fest and the annual Hembree Farm Flea Fling.

The Scarecrow Harvest will show off scarecrow creations submitted by elementary school classrooms on Saturday, Oct. 5 at Alpharetta City Hall at 2 South Main Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free parking will be available at City Hall, the Milton Center and the Old Roswell Street parking lot. Assorted activities and opportunities such as hay rides and face painting will be provided at the Scarecrow Harvest for free as well.

Crabapple Fest will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in historic downtown Crabapple on the same day. The festival combines the Milton Roundup and the Crossroads at Crabapple Antique and Arts Festival into one big destination festival.

"We expect more than 10,000 attendees in historic downtown Crabapple during the festival. This year will be unlike any other, however, because we're closing both Broadwell and Crabapple roads so crowds can safely roam the streets and enjoy not only the festival, but Crabapple's many fine businesses," said Milton Special Events Director Angela Thompson.

Antiques and art from hundreds of vendors, a music and entertainment stage with local and touring acts and rides and activities for the children will be featured. Beer and wine will also be available for the first time in the festival grounds. Free parking is available at Milton High School, Northwestern Middle School, Crabapple Crossing Elementary School and Crabapple Baptist Church. Three shuttles will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to assist with transportation from parking to the fun.

The third annual Alpharetta Brew Moon Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 5 as well from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. in historic downtown Alpharetta around Milton Avenue. Listen to live music and buy brew, wine and food from some of Alpharetta's restaurants as the city comes together for one big street party.

Last but not least of the local festivals, the Roswell Historical Society will present the annual Hembree Farm Flea Fling at historic Hembree Farm. Gently used books, household goods, jewelry, sports, lawn and garden, furniture, toys, antiques and more have been collected and contributed. Free parking will be available on the grounds located at 775 Hembree Road in Roswell. All proceeds support the restoration of the 1835 Hembree Farm historic site.

For those looking to make a mini road trip out of the weekend, Stone Mountain will be kicking off its annual Pumpkin Festival, featuring a variety of pumpkin-themed games and events. If you're torn between staying in town or going to Stone Mountain, don't fret: the Pumpkin Festival will be happening every weekend at Stone Mountain Park until Oct. 28. Closer to home, in Cumming at the Cumming Fairgrounds is the Country Fair and Festival, which will have all the expected festival fare, plus a parade, bull riding and even a chainsaw carving performance.

Senator Albers Speaks on Transforming Government through Wireless Technology



Jennifer Yarber, Director Shawna Mercer, Sr. Communications Specialist 404.656.0028

ATLANTA (October 1, 2013) – Senator John Albers (R –Roswell) hosted a guest panel today at the Mobility Live! Conference at the Woodruff Arts Center in downtown Atlanta. While there, Senator Albers participated in an engaging discussion on transforming government through mobility and wireless technology.

“Emerging technology continues to play a critical role in redefining the way government operates,” said Senator Albers. “Through leveraging new technologies, we are better able to bring government closer to the people and promote cost effective solutions to the issues facing our state.”

The Mobility Live! Conference brings together the nation’s leading technology experts to discuss the latest in technology standards, strategies and innovations. This year, the conference featured technology briefings ranging from e-commerce to mobile marketing and strategy.

Vendors and start-up businesses were also present to provide attendees with an up-close look at wireless technology products and engage in conversation about emerging technologies.

“Mobility in government is of growing importance to citizens across the country and in Georgia. Senator John Albers’ expertise in public policy, and as an IT expert, will provide a unique and authoritative point of view around the usage and future potential of using mobile technology to better connect with citizens and provide better services,” said Larry Williams, Vice President of Technology Industry Development at Metro Atlanta Chamber.

According to the Technology Association of Georgia, the technology sector led the state’s employment recovery, generating nearly 16,000 jobs over the past two years - more than any other major sector - to reach 263,000 workers. Over this two-year period, technology jobs represented more than 20 percent of all new jobs created in the state.

In addition, Georgia’s robust technology sector employs highly-skilled workers within a variety of specialties, including health IT, financial technology, information security, logistics and IT communications.

With over 20 years’ experience in the technology and telecommunications industry, Senator John Albers is one of the foremost experts in the Georgia General Assembly on leveraging technology to streamline government services. Senator Albers is also a Client Partner at Slalom Consulting – a company that delivers innovative business solutions to support business intelligence, performance and mobility.

# # # Sen. John Albers serves as Chairman of the State Institutions and Property Committee. He represents the 56th Senate District which includes portions of North Fulton and Cherokee counties. He may be reached at his office at 404.463.8055 or by email at