Caboose Lighting rescheduled
With a stormy forecast predicted for December 6, one that would make even Rudolph fret, the City of Suwanee has rescheduled its annual Caboose Lighting and Holiday Festival. The event will now be held at 5 p.m. Sunday, December 15, on Main Street in historic Old Town.
The rescheduled event will feature choruses from Level Creek, Riverside, Roberts, and Suwanee elementary schools, who will serenade the crowd and usher in Santa with a variety of holiday tunes. Traveling into town along Main Street, Santa will pause to magically light the red caboose before heading to the Burnette-Rogers Pavilion where children can share their wishes and get their photo taken. Parents, be sure to bring a camera with you.
Cookies, hot chocolate, and s'mores will be available while supplies last.
Linnea Miller joins City Council
When the calendar turns to 2014, Linnea Miller – wife, mother, preschool teacher, and community volunteer – will take on a new role: She will become the City of Suwanee's newest Councilmember.
Miller was the only candidate to qualify in August for the Post 3 City Council position. The Post 3 position has been filled since 2007 by Kevin McOmber, who opted not to run for re-election.
"I've always believed in giving back to the community," says Miller, "and have served where I'm planted. As a result, I've been involved in volunteer work in my children's school, our church, our neighborhood, and the community at large."
Most recently, Miller served as chair of the City's Public Arts Commission. She's also volunteered with Arts in the Park and Suwanee Day.
Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Miller and her husband of 19 years, Eric, moved to Suwanee 15 years ago. The Miller family includes four children ages 8-17, who currently are enrolled in Roberts Elementary, North Gwinnett Middle, and North Gwinnett High schools.
Keep the 'green' in your tree post-holiday
Sure, your real Christmas tree is all green, sparkly, and fragrant now. But what about after Christmas? Through the Bring One for the Chipper program, the City of Suwanee can at least help keep your tree "green" after the holiday.
Once again this year, the City of Suwanee is participating in Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful's Bring One for the Chipper program, through which real Christmas trees are transformed into mulch for parks. Last year, the City of Suwanee mulched 1,419 Christmas trees, and all of that mulch was used in City parks.
Former live Christmas trees (undecorated and unadorned) may be dropped in a designated area at Sims Lake Park from December 26-January 18. From 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, January 4, volunteers will be on hand to assist with tree disposal and to provide free seed packets.
We've seen y'all out there with your cameras and smartphones snapping photos at events; for homecoming, prom, and even weddings; in the parks, on the caboose, and all around town. C'mon show us the great photos you've snapped and share them with the community through the annual Snap! Suwanee photo competition.
"This competition is a fun way for residents to share their vision and personal photographs that help demonstrate why national publications continually name Suwanee as one of the country's best places to live," says Public Information Officer Lynne DeWilde. "The old saying that a picture's worth a thousand words certainly remains truer than ever in our go-go, digital world."
Photos submitted to the competition should represent the Suwanee community in some way and ideally will be taken within the City of Suwanee limits. See additional guidelines. Photos and applications are due December 31; email both to email@example.com. Winning photographs will be exhibited, beginning in March, for an approximately one-year period at City Hall.
This year for the first time, the City is inviting photographers to share their entries with the community via Instagram. Use the hashtag #snapsuwanee.
Suwanee PD earns national re-accreditation
The City of Suwanee Police Department has earned national re-accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), receiving recognition, according to CALEA, for "demonstrating a commitment to professional excellence in policy and practice."
Suwanee Police Chief Mike Jones, who accepted the accreditation award at the November CALEA national conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, notes that this is Suwanee's first re-accreditation, which can be harder to achieve than the original accreditation, which Suwanee earned in 2010.
"The first time," says Jones, "you're creating policies to meet CALEA's more than 400 standards. To get re-accredited, you have to prove that you've done what you said you would."
The CALEA assessment team that visited Suwanee in August wrote in its final report that the Suwanee Police Department "provides a superior level of law enforcement services to the citizens of Suwanee and Gwinnett County. The agency's accreditation program is one example of the agency's level of professional excellence."
CALEA accreditation is awarded for a three-year period.
Chief Jones adds: "We are able to provide better services to the community because of the CALEA standards we are required to meet."
'Suwanee in your pocket'
In its first few weeks, more than 600 people downloaded the City of Suwanee's new app and are engaging with the City via their mobile devices. Officially launched at Suwanee Day, the Go! Suwanee app has a dual purpose: to allow users to report and track non-emergency requests for services (such as potholes or a leaky park water fountain) and to access, through "mini apps," information about City events, parks, and social media links.
"Suwanee in your pocket," wrote one Android user about the new app. "Great way to keep up to date with a wonderful city…. This is a great start and definitely moving in the right direction."
You can put "Suwanee in your pocket," too, by downloading Go! Suwanee at either the Apple Store or Google Play. It's free! Currently, about two-thirds of downloads have been for iPhones. The service request component of Go! Suwanee also is available via this website.
Through October 21, the City had received 22 service requests through the app and website. Of those, 19 had been resolved or closed, notes Assistant to the City Manager Jessica Roth. The most common requests related to Suwanee parks and then street and sidewalk maintenance or repair.
"We're really pleased with the response to the app so far," notes Roth. "We want Go! Suwanee to have a definite, unique, and useful purpose. We're trying to not duplicate other apps, rather we want to provide a Suwanee-centric app."
Survey says…Suwanee's a winner
The City of Suwanee was one of a dozen communities from around the nation – and one of two in Georgia – to be recognized for service excellence at the recent International City/County Management Association (ICMA) annual conference in Boston.
Suwanee received three Voice of the People Awards for Excellence for obtaining outstanding resident ratings through the 2012 National Citizen Survey in three categories: code enforcement, overall service quality, and parks. These ratings placed Suwanee among the three highest-rated communities among all eligible jurisdictions nationwide in each category.
Voice of the People Awards are presented by ICMA and the National Research Center.
The City of Suwanee participates biennially in the National Citizen Survey in order to gather valuable citizen data to help inform budgeting, goal-setting, performance measurement, and program planning.
9-11 'Remembrance' display unveiled
The City of Suwanee recently unveiled an historic/artistic display that memorializes 9-11-2001 at Town Center Park. The permanent display features a damaged, twisted relic from one of the World Trade Center towers, which was given to Suwanee by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
In addition to the 1,628-pound World Trade Center artifact, which stands to the side, the Remembrance display will includes a 9-11 historical timeline with stainless steel letters and numbers embedded into a cement pad. An inverted conical sculpture, with the lower Manhattan cityscape cut into it, stands in the middle of the pad. At night, a light-shadow impression, which offers an aerial view of the cityscape, is projected onto the pad.
The display was created by Statesboro artist Marc Moulton. A sculpture professor at Georgia Southern University, Moulton has created public art projects for more than 20 years, but Remembrance is the first with such historical significance.
"I've never done anything quite like this," Moulton says. "I hope that it will provide a sense of respect and remembrance for the world-altering events it marks. And for those who weren't born yet, I hope the display offers a little bit of the history of 9-11."
A soggy Suwanee Day still brings smiles
A soaking Mother Nature was an unwelcome visitor to the 2013 Suwanee Day festival, but participants, vendors, and sponsors still found much to celebrate.
"I just wanted to thank you for a great event," wrote Heather Andersen with Whitney and Robertson Orthodontics. "I'm so sorry the weather wasn't the best. We still 'soaked' it all in and loved it!"
The festival kicked off with an enthusiastic crowd gathered along Buford Highway for the parade. Vendors appeared to do a brisk business before the rain settled in early in the afternoon. By about 5:30, the rain had cleared out, and many people returned for the Fastball concert and fireworks display, which sandwiched an eerie, electrifying, black-light performance by the Royal Dance Academy.
"It was wonderful fun for our family, despite the rain," said Jennifer Podesta on Facebook.
Event Manager Amy Doherty expressed appreciation for the vendors, sponsors, and attendees who supported Suwanee Day. "We work really hard to make this day possible," she says. "It means a lot when folks come out to enjoy our 'celebration of community' whether it's rain or shine."
Check out the Best of Show and parade winners.
Best of Show
Congratulations to Suwanee Day 2013 exhibitors who were selected as the best of the best:
Suwanee makes Money's 2013 Best Places list
Money magazine has once again named the City of Suwanee one of America's best places to live. The north metro community is ranked #33 on Money's 2013 list of best small towns, making it the highest-ranked community in Georgia.
Money's 2013 list of Best Places to Live focuses on towns with populations of 10,000-50,000. Starting with a database of more than 1,300 towns, the magazine considered median family income and home values; education and crime scores; quality-of-life factors such as health care, arts, and leisure; and intangibles like community spirit.
"It's great to receive national recognition for our community through such a rigorous process and from such a prestigious publication," says Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette. "We're excited to be recognized as the best small town in Georgia and committed to continually improving our community and the quality of life for our residents."
Suwanee has been included on Money's list of Best Places to Live in previous years, ranking #10 in 2007 and #35 in 2009. Earlier this year Family Circle magazine ranked Suwanee as one of the nation's 10 Best Towns for Families and last year Kiplinger.com ranked Suwanee #3 on its list of best places to raise children.
Other Georgia cities on Money's 2013 Best Places list are Evans at #43 and Peachtree City at #48.
Neighborhood Watch (Me Dance)
'Neighborhood Watch (Me Dance)' is
2013 video competition winner
Look out Psy, Suwanee's Cray Beavers are taking their shot at the newest dance craze. In a loose, light-hearted parody of the Gangnam Style phenomenon, Neighborhood Watch (Me Dance) features the Cray Beavers singing and dancing their way throughout the Suwanee community. The video was the winner of the City of Suwanee's 2013 video competition.
The Cray Beavers are singer-rappers Collin Baxter, Jake DeMaris, and Michael Cornelius, all of whom worked this past summer at Camp All-American.
"We were really impressed with Cray Beavers' original song and excited that they developed the video for Suwanee's competition," says Public Information Officer Lynne DeWilde. "We love the beat and light-hearted fun featured in the video and, of course, the Suwanee backdrop."
The Cray Beavers will perform at 6 p.m. September 21 at the annual Suwanee Day festival.
Suwanee unveils new logo
Change is bubbling in Suwanee as the City adopts a new logo. Suwanee's new logo was created by Hein van der Heijden, an Atlanta-based, award-winning designer with 25 years' experience.
"Suwanee is an uncommon city," says van der Heijden. "Its residents have fun living there and there's a lot going on. I wanted the community's logo to reflect that. I used a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters and dropped the capital S in the logo's word art to help suggest the community's originality and playfulness. The graphic offers a bird's-eye view of Suwanee, bubbling with color, activities, and energy."
The City's new logo replaces one that features a lamp post and had been used since 1998. The Suwanee S, another branding mark utilized by the City, will continue to be used along with the new official logo.
"Suwanee has changed a lot since 1998," says Public Information Officer Lynne DeWilde. "We felt that the lamp post no longer offered an accurate representation of our dynamic community. Our goal was to create a logo that is more unique and remarkable, that better represents Suwanee's personality today."
The City of Suwanee will begin using its new logo immediately, but the official launch/celebration of the logo will take place during the 30th Suwanee Day festival on September 21.
One of '10 best towns for families'
Suwanee has been identified as one of the nation's 10 Best Towns for Families by Family Circle magazine. The story is featured in the August issue of Family Circle, which hits newsstands July 2, and is online at www.FamilyCircle.com/besttowns.
"We're thrilled and proud," says Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette. "Through our bi-annual National Citizens Survey, we know that 99% of our residents find Suwanee to be an excellent or good place to live. For Family Circle to confirm and share Suwanee's high quality of life on a national scale is really rewarding."
Family Circle used demographic information and family-friendly criteria – including affordable homes, quality schools, access to health care, green space, low crime rate, and financial stability – to assess cities and towns with populations between 10,000 and 150,000. The magazine article about Suwanee features the Chun family, who moved to the community from Maryland in 2001.
Suwanee was ranked #10 on Money magazine's list of Best Places to Live in 2007 and made the list again in 2009. Last year, Kiplinger.com ranked Suwanee #3 on its list of best places to raise children.
Suwanee was the smallest community to be named to Family Circle's list of perfect places to call home. The north metro Atlanta community, which is served by Gwinnett County Public Schools, was one of three to score a perfect 10 on the "great schools rating."
City Council approves FY14 budget
City Council has adopted a fiscal year 2014 budget that is balanced, proposes to maintain the City's current 4.93 millage rate, uses no fund balance, and represents a 1.3% increase over the 2013 adopted budget. Suwanee begins the new fiscal year July 1 with a $12,162,550 budget in place.
"As the economy begins to improve, we feel good that our budget remains stable and maintains our quality service levels," says City Manager Marty Allen. "This budget and Fitch Ratings' recent affirmation of Suwanee's AA+ rating are good indicators of Suwanee's fiscal strength and stability."
The FY2014 budget funds a new police detective as well as a part-time equipment operator in the public works department and covers 9% of increased health insurance costs. The budget also anticipates an approximately 4% increase in salaries to implement recommendations from the City's classification and compensation study as well as merit pay increases.
Capital expenses covered in the new budget include two mowers, a replacement vehicle for both public works and the police department, landscaping along the Main Street railroad bank, development of a City phone app, additional electrical capabilities in Town Center Park, a generator and trailer, and street banners.
Council also approved the City's 2014-18 Capital Improvements Plan, a five-year program that provides funding for 30 different long-term capital projects, such as corridor improvements for Buford Highway, street maintenance and resurfacing, facility maintenance, and pedestrian and bicycle upgrades. Suwanee's Capital Improvements budget for 2014-18 is $18,731,122.
Photo by David Douglas
Fitch confirms Suwanee's AA+
Fitch Ratings has affirmed the City of Suwanee's AA+ general obligation bond rating, having determined that the City "has a solid history of conservative budgeting, and its consistently strong reserve levels are evidence of prudent financial management."
Fitch recently completed a review of the City of Suwanee's finances and released its rating confirmation, along with a "stable" rating outlook.
"A double-A-plus for an organization and community of our size is a really strong rating," says Financial Services Director Amie Sakmar. "We're proud that our strong, conservative practices, policies, and forecasting have been so recognized by Fitch Ratings."
Fitch's news release states that Suwanee's "conservative budgeting practices, consistent operating results, maintenance of reserves above policy levels, and detailed financial monitoring and forecasting reinforce the City's financial flexibility and strong financial performance." Read more.
Scott and Debra Dovel, with their daughter, Sissy; dog, Molly; and the 'Pilgrim' sculpture they helped keep in Suwanee.
Scott and Debra Dovel have been long-time friends and supporters of the City of Suwanee. So when the Public Arts Commission expressed interest in keeping Charlie Brouwer's Pilgrim sculpture, which was part of the 2012 Suwanee SculpTour, Economic and Community Development Director Denise Brinson knew who to turn to for help.
She wasn't disappointed. The Dovels, who moved to Suwanee in 1987, came through with a donation that allowed the City to purchase the eight-foot wood sculpture, which will remain on display in front of the Gwinnett County Public Library branch on Main Street.
It's not that he's a huge art fan, confesses Scott Dovel, who is director of sales for Vancouver-based Teradici, Inc., although he believes that the City's emphasis on public art will generate its own momentum. It's more that the Dovels believe in their community.
"We want to leave a better community for our kids and grandkids," says Scott Dovel. "It's about leaving a foundation for others to build on. Whether my kids stay here or not, certainly my children will forever consider Suwanee their hometown.
"The City has a vision about the arts being a part of this community," Dovel adds. "If they're committed to that, then I'm going to help."
New SculpTour unveiled
Scheduled to be officially unveiled at the May 18 Arts in the Park festival, the 2013 SculpTour pieces offer artistic interpretations and reflections on a broad range of topics, from nature to the human body, from love of family to an appreciation for well-worn tools.
This recently installed SculpTour features sculptures arranged in a walking tour in and around Town Center Park. The exhibit will remain on display through March 2015. A walkable art encounter, Suwanee SculpTour is part of the City's public arts initiative. The program is coordinated by the Public Arts Commission and is funded through private donations.
The artists in the exhibit hail from seven different states. Several are from Georgia with the remainder coming from Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
"Whether people see one or two pieces at a time as they visit Town Center or see all 15 at once as they take the approximately one-mile walking tour," says Economic and Community Development Director Denise Brinson, "we hope that the accessibility of public art in Suwanee will make them pause, reflect, connect, and maybe smile."
Find more information about the sculptures and artists participating in the 2013-15 SculpTour and vote for your favorite by clicking here.
Photo by Dick Goodman
Resident ratings put Suwanee at the top
For the third time, Suwanee residents have been asked to rate community characteristics and government services through the National Citizens Survey. For the third time, residents have rated Suwanee highly, generally above and often much above ratings received from residents in some 500 other jurisdictions across the country.
In the 2012 National Citizens Survey, conducted in November, residents' ratings placed Suwanee among the top 10 performing communities in 32 of 117 questions addressed – that's 27 percent. Residents' responses made Suwanee #1 in four areas: land use, planning and zoning; preservation of natural areas; city parks; and availability of affordable quality child care.
Suwanee conducts the National Citizens Survey every two years. The survey allows the approximately 500 participating communities across the country to benchmark themselves against one another and to identify local challenges, evaluate improvements, and monitor services and amenities. The statistically valid and scientifically administered survey is managed by the National Research Center (NRC) and International City/County Management Association (ICMA).
Suwanee residents continue to be pleased with overall community quality. Ninety-nine percent of survey-takers rated Suwanee as an excellent or good place to live and would recommend living in Suwanee. Ninety-seven percent rated the overall quality of life as excellent or good. "What we're really pleased with," says Mayor Jimmy Burnette, "is how we've stayed strong. Our numbers have stayed consistently high across the board and across time." See more highlights. See the full reports from NRC/ICMA.