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A look back: A recap on big stories from the past year
by Rachel Kellogg
December 29, 2012 10:35 AM | 3915 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Here's a look back at some of north Fulton's top stories in 2012.

Westside Story

A sigh of relief was heard all around Alpharetta as Westside Parkway was finally completed and open to motorists in April. After years of waiting and help from several organizations, the road, which is said to keep cars off of Ga. 400 and alleviate traffic on Highway 9, is finally drivable.

The completion of the road was tied up legally into the former Prospect Park project, which never came to fruition because of the struggling economy. The property was foreclosed upon in 2009, and the unfinished part of Westside Parkway went with it.

The owners of the new Avalon project allowed the city to take ownership of the road and the city quickly completed and opened it.

Technically speaking

In September, it was announced that Gwinnett Tech will be opening its north Fulton campus in Alpharetta, at the intersection of Old Milton Parkway and Ga. 400.

The college’s service area was expanded to include north Fulton County in June 2010 when they began looking for a permanent site for the new campus.

Alpharetta offered a $4 million incentive if the college picked them for the location.

Alpharetta 2.0

When Alpharetta Mayor David Belle took office in January, one of his goals was to amp up the city’s reputation as a hub for technology corporations.

In August, the city launched its branding initiative, naming itself the “Technology City of the South” and introduced its new technology commission.

The commission is in charge of bringing new tech companies to the city and helping to retain the 900-plus tech companies that already exist in Alpharetta.

Waiting for Avalon

Originally slated to open in fall of 2013, the Avalon multi-use development on Old Milton Parkway, as of October, has an opening scheduled for the spring of 2014.

To the dismay of some residents and motorists in Alpharetta, construction on the project has not yet started and the “mud pit” with a skeletal parking structure formerly known as Prospect Park remains.

City Center

Ground broke on Alpharetta’s long-awaited City Center project at the tail end of 2011, with the start of the Haynes Bridge Relocation project.

Throughout the year, the city has held more than a dozen workshop meetings to discuss the project and allow for public input. City Council has approved an overall site plan for the project.

The plan included relocating structures to save trees, which pleased several residents who spoke out on the issue. Two design plans for the new City Hall have also been approved by council.

The project, which, in addition to a new City Hall building, will include a new library, a five-acre park, shops, restaurants and other greenspace. It is on schedule for a summer 2014 completion.

T-SPLAT

T-SPLOST, the 1 percent, statewide transportation special local option sales tax Georgia and local officials lobbied heavily for, was defeated soundly in July, with all but three regions of the state voting against it.

In metro Atlanta, 62.3 percent of voters in a 10-county area rejected the proposed tax, which would have paid for $8.5 billion in metro highway and mass transit projects.

Poll problems

The Fulton County Registration and Elections Department had a rough year.

During the July 31 primary, it was slow to report election results.

The next month, then-Director Samuel Westmoreland apologized to the county commission for the county’s problems.

They included having 700 voters having their ballots allocated to the wrong state Senate seat election and a recount in the Fulton sheriff’s race where 15 extra votes were found but did not change the outcome.

In September, Westmoreland resigned after being arrested for DUI.

The county was criticized by the Secretary of State’s office for having voters wait hours to cast ballots and even longer to get provisional ballots during the general election in November.

Late last month the secretary’s office issued two letters of instruction, or official warnings, to the department for problems it had during the 2010 elections, and more punishments could be coming.

‘Chicken Man’ saga ends

On March 26, Roswell’s well-known “Chicken Man” blew up his own home, taking his life, to avoid being evicted.

Andrew Wordes first ran into trouble with the city in 2009 when a neighbor complained about the flock of backyard chickens at his Alpine Drive home. Problems revolving around his more than 50 chickens only continued.

A combination of bad luck, ill health, lack of sufficient income, a foreclosure action and, as some friends reported, a stubborn nature, led Wordes to face eviction. Word got out that Wordes blamed the city of Roswell for his problems and City Hall began to receive threatening phone calls.

For a short time, City Hall set up security check points to enter the building.

Bond referendum passes

During the Nov. 6 general election, Roswell residents passed a $14.7 million bond referendum for transportation projects. Roswell is one of only two cities in the state with an AAA-bond rating. The project list includes Holcomb Bridge/Ga. 400 interchange improvements, the replacement of fire station No. 4, a multi-use path and bike lanes on Eves Road, a multi-use trail on Holcomb Bridge Road, adult recreation center upgrades including a therapeutic pool and synthetic turf for four of the city’s fields.

Midtown gets facelift

After 11 years, Roswell’s Midtown Streetscape project was finally completed in June.

Paid for largely with $2.2 million from the Atlanta Regional Commission, one of the first Livable Centers Initiative Grants in the metro area, the project’s goal was to spruce up a 1.1-mile section of Alpharetta Street.

The corridor in the heart of the city had been begun to look old and shabby.

Because Alpharetta Street is a state highway, the Georgia Department of Transportation had to sign off on every aspect of the project. Many of the delays were due to restrictions and requirements imposed by that agency and overwhelming details.

But the finished project includes sidewalk improvements, a textured center turn lane, bridge enhancements, drainage improvements and beautification with street furniture, historic style lighting and landscaping. Missing are roadside trees, which GDOT considered a safety hazard, and landscaped medians.

Police chief resigns

Dwayne Orrick, who took the position of Roswell’s police chief in February 2011, resigned as chief at the beginning of November this year. City officials stayed mum on the issue, saying they do not discuss personnel issues. The city has not hired an official replacement, but James Russell “Rusty” Grant, who was named deputy chief on Oct. 1, has been the acting chief.

Gateway to Roswell

In August, Roswell transportation staff members introduced a design that reconfigures the intersection of Canton Street, Hwy. 9 and Magnolia Street and establishes a sizable island of walkable public space by routing Ga. Hwy 9 up and over a pedestrian walkway from City Hall to Canton Street.

The city has also taken on an ambitious plan to eliminate the reversible lane on the heavily traveled roadway of Atlanta Street.

A light for Brumbelow?

Johns Creek is considering the installation of a traffic light at Nesbit Ferry and Brumbelow for safety reasons, even though most of the intersection is in Roswell. Johns Creek hoped Roswell would share the cost of installing the light, but Roswell council members voted against it, saying it wasn’t at the top of their transportation priorities list. The money for the signal was set aside in last year’s budget and moved to this year’s for the same project, but there is concern from Johns Creek council members that paying the whole cost for a signal that is mostly in another jurisdiction is sending the wrong message to neighboring cities. However, Mayor Mike Bodker told his staff to go ahead and begin planning the light since the funding is there.

A song and a Story

Perimeter Church worship team member and musician Laura Story brought home her first Grammy early this year, winning Best Contemporary Christian Song for her song “Blessings.” The award-winning song was released last year and was No. 1 at Christian AC, Inspo and the National Audience charts for multiple weeks.

Tax reform

In June, the recently formed Johns Creek Charter Commission unanimously approved their proposed revisions to the city’s charter. One of the major proposed changes to the charter is the ability to change property taxes.

According to the city’s original charter, tax rates could only be changed with approval from the majority of the city’s eligible voters, not just the voters that turned out for the election.

But the new charter specifies “a majority of voters voting on the millage rate referendum” can approve a change.

Another change to the charter is that the city will be divided into three council geographic districts with each district having a “Post A” councilman and a “Post B” councilman, totally six councilmen and a mayor. City council will still be voted on citywide.

Cambridge High opens

Cambridge High School in Milton, which draws students from Alpharetta and Milton, opened this August on the corner of Bethany Bend and Cogburn.

The school, which was built to combat overcrowding in north Fulton, features a 600-seat theater, 2,000-seat competition gym and programs similar to neighboring schools.

Roswell High’s former principal Ed Spurka took over as Cambridge’s principal.

Good neighbors

In November, the city councils of Milton and Alpharetta entered into a parks agreement, dissolving all non-resident fees at current and future city facilities in both cities.

The agreement will benefit residents from Milton and Alpharetta who are involved in sports and activities in the cities’ parks.

According to the terms of the agreement, the cities will negotiate a variable maintenance fee each year.

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