If the glass slipper fits…

Shake the cobwebs off those magic wands and dust off your glass slippers for Suwanee Performing Arts' 2014 Broadway in the Park production. A cast of 70 young local performers and 30 backstage volunteers will bring Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella as well as an original one-act play, Spellbound – the Musical, to the Town Center stage July 25 and 26.

A classic fairy tale set to music, Cinderella is the story of a young woman forced into a life of servitude by her cruel stepmother and self-centered stepsisters; she dreams of a better life and a chance to attend the prince's ball. With the assistance of her fairy godmother, Cinderella's dreams come true.

Spellbound – the Musical, an original play created by Suwanee Performing Arts founders Patty Etherton and Bernetta Bock Davis, provides the back story for Cinderella's magical godmother. The one-act play takes place at The Academy of Magical Arts, where a young Annabel is convinced that she is a failure because all of her spells turn to glass and don't last through the night.

Broadway in the Park performances will begin at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26. Admission is free, but reserved premium seating is available for corporate and patron sponsors. Contact Suwanee Performing Arts at 678-482-6333 for more information about reserved seating. In addition, lawn seating in front of the stage is available on a first-come basis for $10 and is designed especially for young children. These tickets will be available at Town Center Park beginning at 4 p.m. on performance days. Magic wands and tiaras also will be available for purchase.

Food trucks roll back in

After a break in July, food trucks will roll back into Town Center Park the first Friday of each month through October. The trucks will serve up dinner from 5:30-9:30 p.m.

The tentative food truck line-up for August 1 is Freckled and Blue, King of Pops, Mac the Cheese, MG's Burger Que, Nana G's Chicken and Waffles, On Tapa the World, Pressed for Time, Smiley's Street Eats, Tex's Tacos, and Tracey's Tasties.

Students in the Suwanee Youth Leaders program are responsible for planning activities and entertainment at the August Food Truck Friday event. They've booked Rupert's Orchestra, a popular and upbeat local party band, to perform beginning at 6:30 p.m. With an eclectic repertoire of more than 1,500 songs, Rupert's performs everything from current top 40 hits to Motown to classic rock to swing.

As part of their agreement with the band, the students are planning fundraising activities for that evening – such as carnival games, a 50/50 raffle, and collecting donations – for a charity with which Rupert's Orchestra works closely, Better Health for Haiti. This organization uses songs and videos to help provide health education to Haitian people.


Everclear

A wing-ding of a concert

Come August 16, the Suwanee community will be munching on alternative rock tunes and flavorful wings as the annual community concert, celebrating its 10th year at Town Center Park, is teamed up with a wing festival. Suwanee's August Concert & Wing Fest will feature the music of Everclear and finger-lickin' good menu items from a variety of Suwanee area restaurants.

The event will kick off at Town Center Park at 5:30 p.m. with the first of three opening bands. Everclear, Billboard's Modern Rock Band of the Year in 1998, is expected to take the stage around 8:30.

A celebrity wing-eating contest will be part of the evening's activities. Attendees also will be invited to vote for their favorite wings from among the vendors at the festival.

Bring blankets, chairs, picnics, and wipes for your hands after devouring those wings, but no alcohol may be brought into Town Center Park. Beer and wine will be available for purchase from concert vendors and licensed Town Center merchants.

Limited parking is available in the downtown area. A free shuttle bus will provide transportation between Town Center and the offsite parking location at the Shawnee North Business Center, 305 Shawnee North Drive at Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road. The shuttles will run from 5:30-10:30 p.m.

Getting down to business

As a small business owner, would you appreciate a personal introduction to the myriad of no- or low-cost resources that are available to help you succeed? Of course you would! Come meet experts from the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center, SCORE Association, Gwinnett Chamber, City of Suwanee, and Gwinnett County on Monday, August 18, for a Small Business Essentials seminar.

This portable panel of experts is presented by the Gwinnett Chamber's Small Business Resources Coalition. The seminar will begin at 2:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the second floor of Suwanee City Hall and includes a networking opportunity that will begin at 4:30. The seminar is free, but advanced registration is required by August 17.

"We want to make sure that entrepreneurs know that they are welcome in the City of Suwanee," says Adam Edge, downtown and business development manager. "We also want to make sure that they know about the partnerships and resources that they can leverage to not only build a business but sustain it."

While the seminar is open to all business owners inside or outside the City of Suwanee, says Edge, it's designed especially for small business owners who have opened within the past 18 months or entrepreneurs who are thinking about opening a new business.

Topics to be covered include business and marketing plans, financial and lending assistance, licensing and taxes, minority assistance, networking and growth, training and mentorship programs, and doing business with the City of Suwanee.

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City starts new fiscal year

At its June 24 meeting, City Council approved a $13.6 million fiscal year 2015 Citywide operating budget. The FY15 balanced budget anticipates that revenues will be down slightly by almost 2 percent, Suwanee's millage rate will remain 4.93 mills, and no resources from the City's fund balance will be required. Suwanee's fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30.

The general fund is the City's main operating fund and is proposed to total $11.2 million, with Suwanee's debt payment accounting for another $1.6 million in expenses. Operating expenditures for the general fund are anticipated to increase by about 5 percent.

Suwanee's FY15 budget funds downtown and public art master plans, a new public works equipment operator position, 10.5 percent increase in health insurance expenses, and a merit salary increase for employees, up to 4 percent depending upon performance.

"Overall," says City Manager Marty Allen, "our 2015 budget conveys our community's financial stability. Revenues are anticipated to be similar to 2014's with a small increase in expenses. When Standard & Poor's upgraded our bond rating to AAA earlier this year, they told us that some of what they liked about Suwanee was our financial stability, conservative fiscal policies, and healthy fund balance."

2014 SPLOST will reduce
transportation travails

Together Gwinnett County and the City of Suwanee have allocated approximately $20 million in 2014 SPLOST funding toward various transportation and sidewalk improvement projects throughout the Suwanee area. Voters approved the three-year countywide one-penny sales tax program in November, and collections began in April.

Gwinnett County has allocated approximately $12.6 million to four Suwanee-area projects that it will undertake through its Department of Transportation:

  • construct an interchange at I-85 and McGinnis Ferry Road
  • widen Peachtree Industrial Boulevard to six lanes between McGinnis Ferry and Moore roads
  • implement intersection improvements, including adding a turn lane and improving pedestrian safety, at Peachtree Industrial and Suwanee Dam (this project is a secondary priority)
  • implement intersection improvements at Suwanee Dam and West Price roads

"These projects will improve traffic and travel in the area and serve well all residents who live in the area," says Gwinnett County Commissioner Jace Brooks, who represents District 1, which includes the City of Suwanee. "I'm pleased that we are able to use SPLOST funds to effectively serve so many."

The City of Suwanee will work jointly with Gwinnett County to fund four additional projects, with the county contributing $1.86 million. These projects include installing sidewalks where there are gaps on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard near McGinnis Ferry Road, Smithtown Road, and Suwanee Dam Road near North Gwinnett High School.

'Teddy bear cop' to retire

For nearly all of his more than two decades with the City of Suwanee, Ofc. Elias Casanas has served as a community ambassador, the face of the Suwanee Police Department. Many families who were moving into the community in the 1990s probably remember him as "the teddy bear cop," while others adore him as their personable and personal connection to the police department.

On July 31, after 24 years of service, Officer Casanas is retiring.

Always much more a people person than a "book 'em" kind of police officer, Casanas spent much of his early days as a patrol officer driving along the roads of new subdivisions that seemed to be popping up everywhere in the 1990s.

"People would be surprised to see me," he says. "'Is everything OK?' they'd ask. And I'd say: 'I just stopped by to say hello. Congratulations on your new house. We're really glad you came, and your house is beautiful.'"

On a whim one day, Casanas bought a teddy bear dressed in a police uniform. He stuck the bear to the passenger window of his patrol car and pretty soon, children and adults alike took to waving and smiling as Casanas and Blu drove through neighborhoods. "He was mainly for children not to be afraid of us," says Casanas of the now-retired police bear.

"Eli is so good with people," says Suwanee Police Chief Mike Jones. "He's so caring that sometimes you wonder if he's serious, and he is. He's got a passion for people and a servant's heart. Elias has been the face of the police department to the community, and we and our residents are surely going to miss him."

Suwanee employs geese police

The Canada geese at Sims Lake Park must have heard about Suwanee being one of the country's best places to live. As it turns out, though, Canada geese aren't very good "tenants" at public parks. They're messy, rude, noisy, and, sometimes, aggressive.

So, the City of Suwanee is undertaking a humane strategy to "evict" the geese from Sims Lake Park, using trained border collies with Geese Police of North Georgia to convince the loud water fowl to move elsewhere. Ducks at the park will not be impacted by the program.

"Over time, the goose population at Sims Lake Park has grown, and they really create a mess," says Public Works Director James Miller. "The birds are prolific poopers, often leaving their waste on the paved trail and stone streamscape. Waste from the geese is raising aesthetic, safety, health, and lake water quality concerns."

Geese graze constantly, and each goose can generate 1.5 pounds of waste on a daily basis.

"Through Geese Police of North Georgia," says Miller, "trained border collies will convince the geese that it's no longer safe to make their home at Sims Lake Park. The dogs never actually touch the birds, and this process is approved by various wildlife agencies, the Humane Society, and PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals]."

Photos by Karl Lamb

Fore! Disc golf course is open

Suwanee's new disc golf course at Suwanee Creek Park is now open on a first-come basis to area residents. Hole one is located near the Buckeye Pavilion, but golfers may start play from any of the course's 18 holes.

"A disc golf course was one of the suggestions that citizens put forward through the park enhancements survey we did in 2010," says Assistant to the City Manager Jessica Roth. "It fits with the passive nature of Suwanee Creek Park yet offers another reason for folks to come use the park."

The course opened on May 3 with a tournament organized by the Gwinnett Disc Golf Organization. About 80 people played in the tournament. Designed by John David, a member of the Professional Disc Golf Association's Hall of Fame, Suwanee's moderate-level course begins and ends near the Buckeye Pavilion at the top of the Suwanee Creek Greenway trailhead and meanders largely along the soft surface trail. No fee or registration is required to use the course.

Early users of the course seem to be impressed. "Awesome course," said Jennifer Montgomery on the course's Facebook page. "Tight and technical, keeps you honest! And heads up y'all, 15, 16 and 17 are brutal!"

"Great addition to the Gwinnett Disc Golf scene," said Kason Moody. "Lenora is pretty much wide open, Alexander is the perfect mix of open and wooded, Suwanee Creek is a beautiful, wooded, and technical course…. A great course to get better at your accuracy."

Fresh and local

Fresh produce, spicy salsas, sweet honey, and colorful flowers return to Town Center when the Suwanee Farmers Market opens for the 2014 season on Saturday, May 3. The farmers market will be open from 8 am-noon Saturdays through October 4 and 4-7 pm Tuesdays through August 5.

In addition to produce, herbs, and flowers, other items available at the market include jams, jellies, cakes, cookies, breads, pies, and honey as well as eggs, plants, and meat, dairy, and organic products.

"We're excited and amazed that the Suwanee Farmers Market is already in its 10th season," says Suwanee Events Manager Amy Doherty. "We've been fortunate to have a loyal group of farmers and other vendors as well as a lot of regular customers. The market has really become not only a great place to find fresh, delicious items, but also a place for old friends to gather."


Town Center Park, circa August 2003

S&P upgrades City to highest rating

Standard & Poor's (S&P), one of the big three among financial rating agencies, has upgraded the City of Suwanee's rating for its general obligation bond debt to AAA, the highest rating available.

After completing a review of the City's rating, which had been AA, S&P upgraded the City to AAA with a stable outlook based on the City's continued economic expansion. "We consider the City's economy to be very strong," S&P says in its report. "The stable outlook reflects our anticipation that the City will maintain its very strong liquidity and budgetary flexibility."

Suwanee is one of only four Georgia cities to have earned a AAA rating from S&P. The others are Roswell, Peachtree City, and Smyrna, which also was just upgraded. Alpharetta has a AAA rating from Moody's.

"This is like going to the doctor and getting a really clean bill of health," says Mayor Jimmy Burnette. "We are confident that Suwanee is fiscally strong with sound financial policies and practices, but sometimes people don't believe you unless someone else says it's so. We're extremely proud that S&P has independently found Suwanee to be extremely fiscally fit."

The City of Suwanee initially obtained a general obligation rating in 2002 when it issued bonds to fund its award-winning open space initiative, which resulted in the acquisition of more than 300 acres of greenspace and the creation of six parks. The City's initial rating was a AA- from both S&P and Fitch Ratings. Since then, the ratings from each agency have been periodically recalibrated and upgraded. The City currently has a AA+ rating from Fitch.

Cowboy Dancers by Alan Akins Around the Bend by Kyle Breen Pump Up Suwanee by Kyle Breen Sayonara Summer by Autumn Crowley Millenials are the Image Nation by Andrew Draper Recovery by Andrew Draper I've Got My Eyes on You by Carla Hoff Reflection by Boo Kirsch Hynes Colorful Cultural Sounds by Karl Lamb Quiet Time by Karl Lamb Iron Angel by Jammie Partee Monkey in the Middle by Laura Shinliver Remember by Terry Vegte
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2014 Snap Suwanee winners

Suwanee's new 9-11 memorial, other public art, parks, and events are featured in the 2014 Snap Suwanee photo exhibit, currently on display at Suwanee City Hall. Thirteen photographs by 10 different photographers were selected to be part of the 2014 exhibit, which will remain on display at least through the remainder of the year.

Each year the City of Suwanee hosts a community photo competition. This year, 76 Snap Suwanee entries were received from 23 photographers. The winning photos are displayed in the first floor foyer area at City Hall, 330 Town Center Avenue. The exhibit may be viewed 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

For the first time this year, some of the winning photographs were submitted via Instagram.

"They say that a picture's worth a thousand words," says Public Information Officer Lynne DeWilde. "Each of the Snap Suwanee winning photos tells a story about the Suwanee community. We're excited to share the colorful, contemplative vision portrayed in the 2014 exhibit."

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