Saturday, January 30, 2010

Odds & Ends

Dunwoody Police Department Launches Investigation

The house fire that caused the death of a 74-year old Dunwoody woman and led to the firing of four DeKalb County firemen, now has the Dunwoody Police Department conducting its own investigation. Dunwoody police were dispatched to the scene at least twice (sources report it was actually 3 times - at approximately 1 am, 4:30 am, and again at 6:30 am). At this point in time, I'm not certain what role the police department should have played in aiding the fire department. For all I know and assume, the police department did exactly what it was supposed to do. It followed protocol. Nonetheless, the department is investigating, as it should. The following is a statement released on Friday by the police department:

On January 24, 2010, officers with the Dunwoody Police Department were dispatched to assist the DeKalb County Fire Department with traffic control for a structure fire at 1687 Houghton Court North. The Dekalb Fire Department was dispatched at 1:05:36 am. The Dunwoody Police Department was dispatched at 1:11:54 am. Two Dunwoody Police Officers arrived on the scene and found several Dekalb County Fire Department vehicles preparing to leave. The Dunwoody Police officers were advised by a firefighter from Ladder 18 that they could not locate any fire and were going back in service. The Dunwoody Police officers went back in service at that time. The DeKalb Fire Department was dispatched shortly after 6:18 am and located the fire at 1687 Houghton Court North. The Dunwoody Police Department responded as well for traffic control. The Dunwoody Police Department is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the death and is working closely with the DeKalb Fire Department and the district attorney’s office on the investigation. Dunwoody investigators will present their findings to the district attorney’s office once the investigation has been concluded.

Mayor's State of the City Address

This past Thursday night Dunwoody Mayor Ken Wright gave his 2010 "State of the City" address. A text of the speech is available by clicking here (I had planned to attend the meeting, but at the last minute was offered a prime ticket to the Georgia Tech/Wake Forest basketball game and choose the latter - of course with all due respect to the mayor). The city appears to be in exceptional financial shape, however funds for repairing and repaving roads could be an issue. Whether or not you agree with all the decisions of the mayor and city council, it's hard to argue that Dunwoody is not in better shape than before incorporation.

Springfield Neighborhood Association

For as long as I can remember - and I have been a resident of Springfield for 16 years - our wonderful neighbor Barbara Beck voluntarily has collected funds to maintain the primary entrance to Springfield (off Chamblee Dunwoody Rd.). Barbara, along with Mari Ann Gallant and Betsy Wagner, among others (and I apologize for not mentioning everyone who's helped) are responsible for our stylish stack stone entrance, easily one of the most attractive in Dunwoody (especially attractive if you remember what the old entrance looked like)! Barbara and her team (Steve Wysocki has mowed the prominade numerous times, even I helped tear out monkey grass and plant some of the current shrubbery), have not only landscaped but maintained the entrance. They have given selflessly to make Springfield a better place to live.

Now it is time for the rest of us to do our share as Barbara passes the torch. A group of neighbors, including myself, have started a voluntary group - the Springfield Neighborhood Association - to ensure that the entrance remains attractive, as well as to foster projects that will continue to enhance the value of our neighborhood. Two meetings already have been held, with a third to be scheduled in February. Among our first projects - raising funds to continue the upkeep of the front entrance. We currently have a little over $200 in our bank account, which will cover our maintanence costs through the spring. In the past, Barbara has asked neighbors to contribute $40 per household. The SNA feels that figure should remain the same for 2010. Barbara says about 25-35 percent of households contribute - we'd love to be able to increase the number.

We are asking all Springfield neighbors to get involved. Please contact me at or 404.644.5220 to learn more. We need your help and support!

Friday, January 29, 2010

What Went Wrong?

If you drive by 1687 Houghton Dr. in Dunwoody Club Forest, it's impossible not to notice the vibrant floral arraignment that adorns the sharply sloped front yard. It stands in sharp contrast to the winter brown of the front lawn. As your eyes make the trek up the hill to where a stately 4-bedroom home once stood, it's impossible not to wonder what in the world went wrong.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, January 24th, the home at 1687 Houghton burned to the ground, killing 74-year old Ann Bartlett. Ms. Barlett, who had lived in the home for 41 years, called 911 at 1:03 that morning, reporting that she accidentally set her home on fire with the "thing for my nose." Despite the phone call, and the DeKalb County Fire Department - and even the Dunwoody Police Department - being dispatched to the scene almost immediately, nothing was done until more than 5 hours later. Four members of the fire department have been suspended, and DeKalb County has now released the findings of an internal investigation (click here to view). It is worth your time to read the report. And after you do, you'll be asking the same question I ask myself. Just how safe am I should a fire break out in my home?
No doubt heads will roll for a death that never should have happened. A lawsuit is likely. But at the end of the day, it should not have come to this. Hopefully we will learn from it, and it will never happen again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Update from Councilman Wittenstein; Condition of Springfield Roads

The following is a letter from Dunwoody City Councilman Robert Wittenstein. Among the topics Robert discusses is the condition of our streets, which were recently laser measured. Streets were rated from "excellent" to "very poor." In Springfield, Conover, Courtleigh, Mill Brook, Summerford Dr. and Springfield Court were all rated as "good," which basically means they won't be repaved for quite some time. Springfield Dr. and Summerford Court were rated as fair, which means they likely will be repaved sooner, but likely not in the very near future.
For more, read Robert's letter as well as the following link: Dunwoody Roads.

Dear Dunwoody Friends and Neighbors,
I spent this past weekend at the Georgia Municipal Association’s semi-annual conference in Atlanta. As part of that event I took a one day course taught by a UGA instructor on “An Introduction to Municipal Finance”. While it was pretty basic, it is a prerequisite for Municipal Finance II, which is taught over the summer in Savannah. I learned that we are doing many things right. Our budget process, financial controls and reporting are superior to what many other cities are accustomed to—even cities with much larger budgets.

I also had a change to meet counterparts in other cities, hear from state legislative leaders and participate in discussions on policies that effect municipal governments.
This coming weekend I will travel with the rest of the city council to Franklin, TN. Franklin and Dunwoody have a lot in common. Like Dunwoody, Franklin is a suburb of a major metropolitan city (Franklin is located roughly 20 miles outside of Nashville.) Franklin’s population and demographics mirror Dunwoody in that they are highly educated (33% with bachelor’s degrees and 15% with graduate degrees) and relatively affluent (average household income $80,778). As with Dunwoody, Franklin has made a deliberate choice to maintain its thoroughfares as two-lane roads and preserve their existing neighborhoods and single-family homes that surround downtown. We will tour Franklin and meet with their staff and elected officials.
Our preliminary year-end financial numbers are now available. Once you adjust out the HOST funds, which are still subject to a court battle with the County, and the lease payment due in January for our start-up costs, we ended the year with a surplus of $1.2 million, which is 6.4% of our budget. I think that shows great financial management. 2010 will be a difficult year. We had one source of income in 2009 that we won’t have in 2010—Franchise fees from Georgia Power. Our 2010 franchise fees won’t be paid to Dunwoody until March of 2011, so we are headed into a lean year. We will need to watch our spending very carefully.
Late in 2009 we commissioned an in-depth study of our roads. It will come as no surprise that the condition of our roads is only fair. To bring all of your roads up to excellent condition it would cost $23 million—about $2,000 per household. Obviously we can’t do all of that in one or two years. Some significant findings include:

  • Although the overall condition of the city’s pavement is described as “fair”, the majority of the city’s pavement is at a point where it is beginning to deteriorate at an accelerated rate due to its age and lack of maintenance.

  • Approximately $2 million per year is needed to maintain the current condition of the overall road system. If we want to gradually improve the road system we will need to budget $2.7 million for the next ten years.

  • Currently, there is a 13% backlog of roads in “poor” condition. Even at appropriate funding levels, this backlog will remain and may even grow slightly in the first 5 years of the pavement management program.

Would you like to see how your street is rated? Check out the full report at the city’s web site: Every street in Dunwoody is listed and the condition of the pavement is rated.

Finally, please try to join us this coming Thursday, January 28th for our 1st year Celebration. It will be held at the 1420 Room on Dunwoody Village Parkway at 5:00pm. We will have displays of “historic” artifacts and prepare a time capsule. Ken Wright will make his “State of the City” address. There will be food and refreshments and the event is free and open to the public. Several corporate sponsors are underwriting the event and we thank them for their support. Please try to stop by and say hello.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Springfield Neighbors to Meet Tuesday Night

As many of you know, a group of Springfield neighbors are attempting to start a voluntary neighborhood/homeowners association. The purpose of the organization is to add value to our neighborhood, not only to keep real estate values up, but to form valuable relationships with our neighbors.
We are meeting 7:30pm Tuesday night at the upstairs conference at The Crier on Nandina Lane. Please make plans to join us as we move forward. Be part of the process.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Springfield Does Itself Proud at Pinewood Derby

Cub Scouts packs all across the country held their Pinewood Derby's on Saturday, including Pack 434 of All Saints Church, which includes 5 young men from Springfield. Durham Wysocki finished 10th among 61 entries; Victor Chiles; Andrew Mills, Sam Volan and Jack Fiscella all finishing in the top half.
Cub Scouts, with the help of parents, build their own cars from wood, usually from kits containing a 5-ounce block of pine, plastic wheels and metal axles. With the popularity of the pinewood derby, other organizations have developed similar events, and a small industry has developed to provide tracks, timers, scales and other products. The pinewood derby was selected as part of "America's 100 Best" in 2006 as "a celebrated rite of spring"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Are You Pleased With DeKalb County Schools?

Are you pleased with the direction of the DeKalb County School System? Do you agree with the board's decision to give superintendent Crawford Lewis a raise while denying raises for teachers? What do you think of Lewis asking DeKalb County to raise property taxes to make up for the school system shortfall?

For more, read what Councilman John Heneghan has to say on his blogsite at We all should be very concerned. And we shouldn't hesitate to make our voices heard!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Update from Councilman Shortal

The email below is from Dunwoody councilman Denis Shortal.

Fellow citizens of Dunwoody .... the following are a few items of
1. Correction .... Tree Removal Permits. A couple of updates ago I stated that a permit was required by ordinance anytime you wanted to have a tree removed from your property. That is not a totally correct statement. Chapter 14 does specifically reference the standards for new construction on undeveloped lot. The post construction standards for lot canopy coverage are required to be maintained for a residential lot to be in compliance with the terms of the CH 14. The purpose of our permitting in this case is to aid in the inspection of the property and help insure the property owner is familiar with the requirements of Ch 14. In order to attain "Tree City USA" status (something that we want) there are certain requirements that we must comply with. In summary, we have a policy, NOT an ordinance or code so therefore there in no financial penalty for non-compliance (yet), for the requirement for a tree removal permit and it is a function of our education program geared toward the residents and continuing our goal of the tree care for our environment. How about that, I put the correction on the front page vice the back page.

2. Community Meetings .. On our website .. on the left side of the home page the first item under "Quick Links" is "Agendas."
Under agendas you will find the agendas for all the upcoming meetings.
These agendas are usually posted approx. six days prior to the meeting. The meeting schedule for all meetings is listed under "Calendar" under "Quick Links."

3. Community Council (CC) Meeting ... Tomorrow night @ 7 PM at City Hall the CC will be meeting and the agenda item is one you have heard a lot about ... whether we should change our ordinance to allow chickens in the city of Dunwoody or leave the ordinance as it currently written which prohibits fowl (chicken, etc.). Regardless which side of the fence you are on you will want to attend to have your opinion heard. These CC meeting are the best venue for you, the citizens, to voice your opinions.

4. Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) Meetings ... The last two meetings have been well attend with spirited debate and input. The next, and last, meeting will be held on Thursday, 21 JAN at the
Congregation Beth Shalom, 5303 Winter Chapel RD at 7 PM. The topic
of discussion will be the Winter Chapel area which should draw a lot of input. See you at the meeting. On a side note there have been a lot of rumors going around that the City Council has signed off on certain CLUP issues ... this is incorrect. To date there has been nothing signed off by the City Council. If you hear a rumor send me an email and I will give you a straight answer.

5. Alert System .... The City has signed on the "missing child call system" that is a type of "robo call" or "reverse 911." If we have a missing child a call automatically goes out. A few citizens have been alarmed excessively by receiving these calls. Anyone can opt to not receive these calls if you wish. Just call our police department @ 678-382-6900 and tell our receptionist your name, phone number and that you want to be removed from the "missing child call list." I would hope that very few folks opt out but I understand that health, etc. could be a good reason to opt out. Concerning a city alert system we are also looking at a system to notify our citizens of emergencies ... for example tornadoes, other severe weather, etc. I favor a siren system because I feel it will cover a larger percentage of the citizens in a rapid manner while others favor a "robo call" system which depends on operative phones. I would like to hear your feedback on this issue.

6. Noise Ordinance .... Some of you have written me requesting Information about when construction/repair noises ... or landscape contracting is prohibited in our City. With the help of our City Attorney I have the answers:
a. Construction or repair noise that uses any equipment (there is a long list) that are attended by loud or unusual noise is prohibited before 7:30 AM or after 8:30 PM on weekdays, and before 8:00 AM or after 8:30 PM on Saturdays, and at any time on Sundays or legal holidays (legal holidays are New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas). Landscaping equipment - mowers, blowers, etc. - which creates loud and excessive noise are prohibited the same hours/days as construction or repair equipment. The enforcement of the noise ordinance is under the jurisdiction of our Police Department.

7. Security Tip of the Week ... If you purchase a new TV or devise that is highly desired by thieves .... do not put the containers out at the curb on trash day where thieves can see what you just purchased. Instead fold or cut up the containers and put them in trash bags prior to taking them out to the curb.

8. The Polar Plunge is just 38 days away ... I need some warm weather prayers!!! For those of you that don't know the sponsor donation funds I received will go to our Police Department's drive to support Georgia Special Olympics!

9. That's all for now. Again, my sincere thanks for being involved and interested citizens. You continued support is greatly appreciate.
Please pass this update to anyone you feel maybe interested and if you want to be added to my email list just let me know.

Denny Shortal
Dunwoody City Council, District One, Post-1, Mayor Pro-Tem

P.S. It is late and I have to go to Patti Baker's Sustainability Committee meeting at 0745 in the morning so you have to correct the rest of the spelling errors on your own!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I wanted to attend the city council meeting last night, as it had some intriguing items on the agent, but instead opted to go to All Saints Church to listen to Holocaust survivor Murray Lynn speak to the Men's Club. With all due respect to the council meeting, I'm pleased I made the choice I did.

A native of Hungry, Lynn, now 79, spoke in vivid detail about how his father was taken by Hitler's secret police in 1942 (his father was a Jewish community leader), never to be seen again; and how two years later the SS took him, his three brothers and his mother. They were herded into a cattle car and hauled off to the infamous concentration camp of death in Auschwitz.
On their arrival, Murray, now 14 years old, was placed in one line and the rest of his family in another. He would never see them again. Murray found out later that day, that his mother and brothers were executed, their remains burned, bellowing from a nearby smoke stack.

Lynn spoke of a typical day at the concentration camp: a meal in the morning that consisted of one cup of coffee and one piece of bread, a full day of work in the mines, and then a small bowl of the foulest smelling soup for dinner. (he estimated an intake of 150-180 calories a day; the average adult needs at least 1500 calories just to perform normal functions). This was the daily routine; 7 days a week. There was no deviation.
Lynn spoke of possessing just one striped uniform and one pair of shoes (no socks). In the winter of 1944 in Auschwitz, temperatures routinely dipped below zero. He had no coat. For extra warm, he wore a cement bag, which he found in the mine, under his uniform. During his one year stay in Auschwitz he never bathed - he was covered in lice. There was no hospital.
Lynn was one of the lucky ones, as 2.5 million Jews were exterminated in Auschwitz. He was asked about the sense of joy he felt when the American forces arrived to liberate them in 1945. He said he was so sick, both mentally and physically (he weighed about 60-65 pounds), that he could not comprehend what was happening. He said many of his fellow prisoners actually died after being rescued because they over eat.

Asked how he survived, Lynn said it was his mind set - the will to live. He says to this day, he still has nightmares about Auschwitz; every few months awoken by his own screams.

Friday, January 8, 2010

An Icy Day and Night

For anyone who hasn't been out on the roads yet, be very careful! It's the icy portions of the road that you can't see that are the most dangerous. Friday's high temperature is only expected to hit 30 degrees, so very little or no ice will melt. The forecast for Saturday calls for highs of 34 degrees.
If you thought it was cold today, imagine how cold it got last night for Texas Longhorn fans - like me - who watched their beloved 'Horns get beat by Alabama in the National Championship Game. Congrats to Alabama - Roll Tide, but the result left the Longhorn nation wondering what might have been. On Texas' 5th offensive play of the game, it lost All-American quarterback Colt McCoy to a shoulder injury. McCoy was Texas' be-all-end-all. The 'Horns alpha and omega. When he left the game, Texas' chances of winning were reduced to hoping for a miracle (and with 3 minutes left, trailing by only 3 points, a miracle appeared possible). But it wasn't too be.
As I watched Texas play without its leader, it reminded me of the film The American President. Michael Douglas plays the president (Andrew Shepherd), who lost his wife just prior to getting elected. At one point, Douglas turns to his chief-of-staff (Martin Sheen) and says, "If Mary hadn't died, would we have won three years ago?" Sheen's reply is, "I don't know. But I would've liked that campaign. If my friend Andy Shepherd had shown up, I would have liked that campaign."
That's the way I feel about last night's game. If McCoy hadn't got hurt, I would have liked that game. And Texas' chances.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Update from Councilman Shortal

The letter below is from city of Dunwoody councilman Denis Shortal.
Fellow Citizens ..... First, A Happy New Year to all!
1. Comprehensive Land Use Planning (CLUP) Meetings .... There are three remaining CLUP meetings and all are in the month of January. I believe it is critical that we have max attendance ... from not only those that have interest in the specific areas but also from across the entire city ... at these meetings so that we can hear your input as you voice you opinions. Lets all come to stand up and be heard and, to listen to the input of others. The purpose of these meetings is for long range planning to lay the ground work of what our City will look like through the year 2030. The specifics for the three meetings are as follows:

5 JAN 2010 from 7 - 9:00 PM at the Atrium at Georgetown Park, 4355 Georgetown Square .... The specific area of focus/discussion is the Georgetown / Shallowford area.

12 JAN 2010 from 7 - 9:00 PM at the Jewish Community Center, 5342 Tilly Mill Rd ... The specific area of focus/discussion is the Jett Ferry / Tllly Mill area.

21 JAN 2010 from 7 - 9:00 PM at the Congregation Beth Shalom, 5303 Winter Chapel Rd ... The specific area of focus/discussion is thew Winter Chapel area.See you at the meetings. Thanks for your continued interest, involvement and support of our City.

Denny Shortal
Dunwoody City Councilman, District One-Post 1/Mayor Pro-Tem