Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dunwoody Developer Creates Greenspace; Candidate Questions City's Contracts

Warren Jolly
By Christoper Quinn The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

With metro Atlanta home values plunging by about one-third in five years, some owners are finding ways to add value to their neighborhoods.
Larry Carter took the prerogative to turn around the downtown Atlanta community he bought into by getting neighbors to help clean up dilapidated properties and help real estate agents with open houses so values would not keep dropping.

Warren Jolly, a developer as the CEO of the Providence Group, had a similar idea for his newer Sterling of Dunwoody condo neighborhood, where prices begin in the mid-$100,000 range.
When the real estate crash brought construction to a halt, he was left with a bare concrete pad among the four other buildings containing more than 150 units. He began to think and negotiate creatively with his financiers about finding a use for that land, and this month workers jackhammered the $500,000 pad into pieces, hauled it away and are turning the former eyesore into a neighborhood park with trees, a grilling area and an herb garden.
“It’s good to see something come to completion,” Jolly said, adding that it stabilizes the value in the community.
Don Wrenn, an owner in Sterling of Dunwoody, said seeing an empty pad would make potential buyers think the neighborhood was stalled. Turning it into a park sends a message that the neighborhood is finished, he said.  Click AJC to read full story.

Candidate Questions Awarding of Contracts
By Terry Nall
Candidate, Dunwoody City Council

There were two significant developments at City Council this week. First was the approval to place two parks bonds on the November 8 ballot. (More will come on that in future updates.) Second was Council's approval of contracts for vendors to provide municipal services beginning in 2012. Did we do the right thing for Dunwoody?
In 2008, the City outsourced Community Development, Finance and Administration, and Public Works. Those 2008 contacts expire December 31, 2011. When seeking new bids for these services earlier this year, the City expanded the original categories to seven services: Information Technology, Public Relations and Marketing, Parks and Recreation, Finance and Administration, Planning and Zoning, Permits/Inspections, and Code Compliance.
The procedures of the City's own Request for Proposal (RFP) called for the City to score all proposals for both technical and cost considerations. Then, the City would negotiate with the highest-ranked vendor in each of the seven service areas. The negotiation process would be with the most qualified firm in each category, as identified through the scoring process.
The evaluation committee consisted of my opponent plus two other Council members and city staffers.
At the July 25 Council meeting, our city manager presented the evaluation committee's recommendation to award service contracts to just three firms, not seven. One firm, Clark Patterson Lee, was recommended for four of the seven contracts. The evaluation committee recommended expanding this vendor's city services involvement from handling just Community Development today into the additional areas of Public Works and Parks and Recreation. The rationale was a bundled discount for being awarded more than one contract.
However: Clark Patterson Lee was NOT the highest rated firm for the categories of Public Works or Parks and Recreation. The current provider of these two services, Lowe Engineers, scored higher than Clark Patterson Lee and therefore was the highest rated firm. Further, Lowe Engineers alleges there were no negotiations with them despite their status as the highest rated firm. If true, this violated the stated procedures in the city's RFP and in my opinion, tainted the entire RFP process.
My experience in leading financial services and business due diligence suggests that NONE of the seven contracts should have been awarded until the alleged RFP procedural errors were fully investigated.
If, indeed, City Staff has not followed its own RFP procedures, we should have held back on all contracts. Instead, Council voted to award five of the seven contracts, including two contracts to Clark Patterson Lee, leaving only Public Works and Parks and Recreation unapproved.
Expect to see more news about this in the public press.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Update From Councilman Wittenstein; Farmer Bob Reviews Council Meeting

Below you will find the latest city of Dunwoody update from Councilman Robert Wittenstein.  Robert talks about the two bond referendums that were unanimously approved on Monday night and will be on the November ballot.  He also talks about the city's new service contracts.
Below the councilor's update is the first part of the most recent post by Dunwoody sage Bob Lundsten.  Draw your own conclusions.

Dear Dunwoody Friends and Neighbors,

We have just re-negotiated contracts for city services with local venders and have achieved significant cost savings with higher levels of service.
When the city started two and half years ago we signed contracts with three firms to provide most city services. With those contracts expiring in December, it was time to take the contracts back out to bid.
I was one of three council members on the evaluation committee. We drafted the Request for Proposals, developed the scoring system, reviewed dozens of proposals (thousands of pages) and conducted 21 face-to-face interviews with potential venders.
We had a very competitive process that led to our recommendation of four firms. Two of the firms are currently providing services to Dunwoody and the other two firms have asked to talk with our current contract staff to see if there is a good fit, so we expect very little staff turnover as a result of the process.
We are getting significantly higher levels of services in IT and Marketing/Communications and comparable levels of service in all other areas. The process has provided strong and compelling evidence that our contracting model works and will provide excellent service at locked-in savings for the contract period.
These contracts will save us over $3 million over the next four years. The $780,000 per year in savings will be available for additional road or parks improvements, or to cover the added cost of the ChatComm 911 service. I would like us to earmark some of the funds to start a vehicle replacement fund so that when we need start replacing our existing fleet of police cars in a few years we have the money in reserve rather than having to borrow from the bank and pay interest.
It didn't get a lot of play in the local press, but we dodged a tax bullet this month. There was a lot of publicity around DeKalb County's 4.3 mill tax increase. What didn't get as much notice is that most of that doesn't apply to Dunwoody city residents. Our taxes are "only" going up 1.59 mills. That is still a jump, and it will mean about $150 more per year for the average Dunwoody homeowner, but it is a far cry from the major tax increase other DeKalb residents will endure. Dunwoody's total property tax millage rate is now ten percent lower than anywhere else in DeKalb County.
On a related note, this week the Dunwoody City Council voted unanimously to place two parks bond referendum on the November ballot. The first would fund the purchase of additional park land; the second would fund facility improvements to existing and newly acquired parks. If approved, each would add $104 in property tax per year to the average Dunwoody home. It will be up to the voters to decide whether we want to fund additional parks infrastructure investment or maintain the status quo.
Next month I'll travel to Eatonton, Georgia (in Putnam County) to represent Dunwoody at the joint Georgia Municipal Association/ACCG Revenue and Finance policy committee meeting. The primary goal of this meeting is to develop the tax, revenue and finance priorities for cities and counties in the next Georgia General Assembly session. Tax reform is sure to be high on the list of priorities. I am sure it will be a lively session!
It's hard to believe but DeKalb County schools start again soon on August 8. Remember to drive carefully in school zones and obey the reduced speed limits. Watch out for walkers and bikers. Good luck to everyone as we begin a new school year.


I just got done watching the videos of the council meeting on Monday night. That was the meeting that some members of the City Council are all puffed up about. We passed the bond issue, so we will now get a chance to vote on raising our property taxes. That is OK. Citizens have that right. I totally disagree with the false sense of urgency that Councilman Wittenstein has constantly hyped, but the voters will decide.

There is no way I would give this or any council in the future, a $30+ million advance to spend on future projects without any real guidelines or controls. Do not throw the parks plan out there as the supposed guide of future spending. This council has shown a total disregard for plans that have been worked on by committees and consultants. I still cannot figure how baseball fields even got into a plan at all regardless of where they eventually be built.
So for whatever it is worth I can support bonds for purchase, but refuse to give any council a debit card with a $30+ million line of credit. (I have no illusions that my endorsement will make a bit of difference)
What is disturbing is this council’s on going habit to make changes to items that have been worked on for months from the floor at a council meeting, then voting on the newly amended item. I do not remember hearing that any of them are legal experts, or have any experience writing city code. Not having hard copies of the changes available to the public is a dis-service to the public since no one really knows what was voted. Bad policy, bad habit, one that I hope does not come back to bite us in the butt someday.
To read the rest of Bob's blog, click Dunwoody Farmer Bob.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

City Council Approves Bond Referendums; Contractor Feels Slighted

At Monday night's meeting, the Dunwoody city council did the expected and unanimously voted to add the controversial parks' bond referendums to this November's ballot.  While councilman John Heneghan spoke passionately about his support for both bonds (one bond would raise up to $33 million dollars for parks' acquisition, the other would raise up to the same amount for parks' improvements) councilman Denis Shortal said he is voting 'no' on each.  However, Shortal did agree that both should be placed on the ballot to allow the citizens of Dunwoody to ultimately decide. 
Each bond would raise property taxes on a home valued at $350,000 about $105 per year, for a total of $6,300 over the course of the 30-years of the bond. 
During the meeting's public comments, former state senator Dan Weber said passage of the parks' bonds were important in attracting new community-minded businesses and families to Dunwoody.  I won't debate the former senator, but I will say that lack of parks didn't stop any of the current businesses or residents from moving to Dunwoody.
I am against the bonds, as written.  I can certainly be talked into the land acquisition bond, especially if I knew that future purchases would be confined to property zoned for high-density living (this would not only give us more greenspace, but prevent further overcrowding of our roads and schools).  However, the second bond seems excessive (read the Parks Master Plan, see if you agree).

Lowe's Engineering Upset With City

By Dick Williams
Crier Editor
The Dunwoody city council was set Monday night to award four new contracts with outside vendors who manage much of the city’s operations. But a letter from a losing bidder threw a monkey wrench into the gears.
Lowe Engineers, the city’s public works contractor since the city began in 2008, lost the contract for planning and zoning, public works, parks and recreation and permitting and inspections to Clark Patterson Lee.
Lowe charges that the city failed to give it an opportunity to negotiate, even though it was ranked the highest vendor by a committee of three council members and some city officials.  Click on The Crier to read full story.

Will Dunwoody Lose Post Office?

A couple of years ago, it appeared that the United States Post Office would pull out of Dunwoody.  But the public outcry went a long way towards preventing that from happening.  However, USPS is once again talking about post office closures.  Will Dunwoody be one of them?  Councilman Robert Wittenstein forwarded the link for the locations in danger here in Georgia, and Dunwoody is not on the list.
Click Post Office to read full story of closures.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Odds and Ends

Justin King commits to Tennessee

Congrats to rising Dunwoody High senior linebacker Justin King, who verbally agreed to a full scholarship to play for Coach Derek Dooley at Tennessee (Dooley, by the way, is a class act.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree).  At 6"3" and 215 pounds, King has the size and quickness that college recruiters crave. rates his as the 56th best player in the state, and the 64th best linebacker in the country.  He's got chance to be an impact player in a couple of years.
Click Justin King to watch video of him as a sophomore at Dunwoody (he's No. 6).

City Touts Savings

DUNWOODY, GA – July 21, 2011 – In a move indicative of its “Smart People - Smart City” culture, the City of Dunwoody has found a way to drive down the cost of services provided to its citizens by more than $3 million while increasing the level of service.
With existing contracts for Community Development, Finance and Administration, and Public Works concluding their initial term in December, earlier this year, the City issued a Request for Proposals based on the Split Contract Service model the City pioneered in 2008 which strategically outsources government services to different vendors of key service areas for a fixed fee.
A committee of four staff members and three members of the City Council appointed by Mayor Ken Wright have completed recommendations for the award of contracts in the areas of Information Technology, Public Relations and Marketing, Finance and Administration, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Zoning, Permits and Inspections and Code Compliance. The review committee’s recommendation of award of contracts for the provision of each professional service area will be considered by City Council at its July 25th meeting.

The committee is recommending that the City partner with four vendors to provide services in the following seven categories:
JAT and Calvin Giordano & Associates for Finance and Administration services
Clark Patterson Lee for Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Zoning and Permits, Inspections and Code Compliance services
InterDev for Information Technology services
Jacobs for Public Relations and Marketing services
If the recommendations for contracts are approved by the Council, the City will save more than $3.1 million dollars over the life of the contracts (three years with a city-option for a fourth year) including the strategic move to bring three positions into direct City employment. This provides the City with an extra $780,000 a year to spend on infrastructure, public safety and parks, all of which have been identified by citizens as top priorities.

Wittenstein Kicks Off Campaign

Dunwoody Councilman Robert Wittenstein officially will kick-off his re-election campaign with a fundraiser at Cafe Intermezzo on the evening of August 11.  Robert is the at-large councilman from District 1.  He beat Mallard Holliday by 10 percent of the vote, 55-45, in 2008 to win the seat in the city's first election.  He figures to face another strong challenge this year from Vernon North resident Terry Nall, who's been active in the Dunwoody community since moving here in 1998.
Word has it that a third candidate may emerge in this race, as well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dunwoody Real Estate Update

As we hit the middle of July, the good news is that single family homes in Dunwoody are selling!  There currently are 37 homes under contract, with a total of 32 homes having sold in the past two months.  The median average of the homes sold is just slightly above $400,000 - again good news.  However, there still is no definitive indication that home sale prices are rising.  I don't suspect we'll see a steady increase in pricing until the job market gets turned around.
There currently are 221 active single family listings in Dunwoody in zip codes 30338 and 30360 ranging in price from $1,200,000 to $180,000 (median average is $330,000).  To view any of the listings (with photos), click on the first link.  To view the listings as a line item, click on the second link.

Buyer Report
CMA Line Report

Of course if you are buying or selling a home, please email me at, call me at 404.644.5220 or visit my website at  I'll be happy to provide you with exceptional service.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Click on the photo above, it is the fabulous ending to the original classic film Planet of the Apes (warning - if you are offended by salty language, you might want to skip it).  Charlton Heston is slamming his fist in the sand saying, "you maniacs, you did it!"
When I saw that DeKalb County Commissioners voted 4-3 to raise our taxes by a whopping 4.35 mill (or 26 percent), it made me think of the ending to this timeless film.  No, the tax increase probably will not bring an end to our world as we know it, but it certain feels like we're moving in that direction.  Even CEO Burrell Ellis' supporters criticize the tax hike, as well as his management of the county's finances.
Interesting to note, not everyone in Dunwoody is as disappointed as I am about the tax increase.  Right here on this blog is an bare-knuckled exchange between commissioner Elaine Boyer's Chief of Staff, Bob Lundsten (Boyer was the leading opponent of the increase), and a longtime Dunwoody resident who goes by the handle Chip Bagman.  Click comments to read.

Decision on Bonds Deferred

I'm a little late writing about this (sorry, a busy real estate week), but I was at the Dunwoody City Council meeting on Monday night, and kudos to the council for doing the right thing and delaying the vote on the two parks' bonds that will, if passed, increase our taxes another 1.5 mill!  Now, the big question, will the council continue to do the right thing and delay the vote until, say, next year or the year after that?
Again, I don't have an issue with the acquisition of more park land or parks' improvements, only with doing it now, or through such a large tax of this nature.
If the referendums are put on this November's ballot, one is all but certain to be voted down, and the other is most likely to be voted down.  And if/when that happens, it will make it that much harder to get a bond of this nature passed in the near future.  At the very least, why not defer the vote until next year or the year after, when more residents might be more likely to stomach this tax increase (I probably won't be one of them). 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Now is the time to let our esteemed DeKalb CEO and our county commissioners know that a 47 percent tax increase is not acceptable!  Our District 1 Commissioner Elaine Boyer thinks so as well, penning the email below.  I cannot believe there is not more public outrage! 
Why are we facing this tax increase of epic proportion?  Because our county officials, both past and present, have little idea how to work within a budget.  They have confused wants for needs.  And now they want us to pick up the tab.  We all need to be shouting at the top of our lungs that this is not okay.  CEO Ellis - you need to cut non-essential services.  Now!  I bet if it was your own money, you would treat it a lot differently. 
Please read Commissioner Boyer's comments below, and then email the CEO and commissioners.  You owe it to yourself!

Thank you for your email regarding the proposed millage increase. I serve on the budget committee and we have been meeting weekly & a lot of times twice a week to discuss the shortfall. The budget committee has continually asked the CEO’s office for outsourcing of county services, prioritization of spending (essential vs. quality of life) and long range projections for reducing the size of DeKalb’s government. The CEO is still holding firm with his request of a 4.5 mill increase.

For residents whose assessment value didn't change at all, the 27 percent rate hike translates into a 47 percent tax increase. That's $451 more per year for a home in which its value remained at $300,000 last year and this year. It adds $286 per year for a home worth $200,000 and $121 for a home worth $100,000 in both years.
Many of you are writing and asking what you can do to make your protest of this millage increase heard. I would recommend that you contact the CEO’s office and all of the Commissioners:

CEO Burrell Ellis –
Commissioner Jeff Rader, District 2 –
Commissioner Larry Johnson, District 3 –
Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, District 4 –
Commissioner Lee May, District 5 –
Commissioner Kathie Gannon, District 6 –
Commissioner Stan Watson, District 7 –

Yes, your attendance at Tuesday’s meeting at 10:00 in the Maloof Auditorium would be helpful & yes, bring as many other concerned citizens as you can!
The commission must adopt its final tax rate by July 12th in order to get tax bills out by mid-August. The first payment would be due by September 30th and the second and final installment by November 15th.
Time is of the essence on this issue. Please continue to urge the CEO and the Commission to make the necessary cuts to roll back the millage. If you would opt for lower taxes, rather than quality of life programs, your voice needs to be heard.
Thank you,
Commissioner Elaine Boyer

Dunwoody Council to Vote on Bond

While DeKalb gets set to raise our taxes, Dunwoody City Council, at Monday night's meeting, will vote on placing two $33 million parks bond referendums on the November ballot.  If both bonds are passed, and my calculations are correct, taxes on a $300,000 home would increase by $180 per year.  Personally, I am not against parks or parks' improvements, but I am against a city tax increase at this point in time (don't forget, our average water bills are about to double as well). 
Councilman Robert Wittenstein wrote in his most recent city update, "It is absolutely appropriate for us to ask residents if they want to fund additional parks infrastructure improvements with additional property taxes-or not. This isn't the City Council deciding to raise your taxes. It is us asking voters what they want." 
I have a lot of respect for Robert, but I don't agree.  Instead, why not ask voters if they would like to fund improvements to our roads, which are a much more pressing need than our parks. It might not be as sexy, but wouldn't a roads bond be more appropriate? 
Bottom line, road or parks, I cannot stomach another tax increase at this point in time.  When is enough, enough.

Friday, July 8, 2011

City Update

Movies Under The Stars

On Friday, August 19 Comcast, the ReelzChannel, and City of Dunwoody Parks and Recreation welcomes families and kids of all ages to “Movies Under the Stars.” Dunwoody and area residents are invited to enjoy this free, outdoor event featuring the PG Disney release “Mars Needs Moms.” Bring your lawn chairs, blankets, and picnic baskets and join us for a great evening of free family entertainment. Come out early for fun pre-movie activities. All movies will begin at dark. Movie concessions will be available.

WHAT: Comcast and REELZCHANNEL are proud to announce their partnership for the upcoming XFINITY® ―Movies Under the Stars series presented by REELZCHANNEL—TV ABOUT MOVIES®. The City of Dunwoody event is part of a 10-movie series at venues throughout the area beginning July 15 at The Villages Amphitheater in Fayetteville, GA and will conclude on October 8 in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta. These critically acclaimed family friendly films are presented on a giant 45 foot outdoor movie screen.

DATE: Friday, August 19, 2011
TIME: 8:45 p.m. or after dark.
WHERE: Brook Run Park
WHO: The event is open to the public.
COST: Free

For more on city happenings, click on the City of Dunwoody's Summer Newsletter.

Rescheduled Fireworks

The city of Chamblee has rescheduled its 4th of July fireworks extravaganza for tomorrow night (Saturday night) at 7:30 at Keswick Park.  The show is scheduled to begin shortly after dark, about 9:15 p.m. If it rains Saturday, they’ll try again Sunday.  There is no charge to watch the fireworks, however food vendors will be on site.  Folks tell me it is one of the best fireworks displays in the Atlanta area. 
To view Keswick's 2009 fireworks, click HERE.

Dunwoody Resident Can't Get Enough

A good article in this week's Dunwoody Reporter on city resident and Sandy Springs police major David Bertrand, who also happens to be the All Saints traffic officer every Sunday.

Posted by Joe Early

David Bertrand admits there are times when his exercise program can seem, well, a little bit nuts.

Like when he’s in training. He doesn’t have time to run the distances he should, so he wears a 65-pound, lead-filled vest and carries a Goodyear tire across his shoulders to make his training runs around Dunwoody harder.
“It looks odd,” Bertrand admitted. “People think I’m very weird carrying that tire.”
Some drivers have even stopped and asked if he needs a ride to the nearest gas station to get his flat fixed.
Click David Bertrand to read more.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Odds and Ends

With taxes in DeKalb County about to skyrocket, increasing about $500 a year on a $300,000 home in Dunwoody (see Crier article for more details), now is the time to file an appeal on your home's appraised value, and chances are the county has over-appraised your home.  The deadline is July 11.  Click on Manual Appeal Form to download the necessary form.  It won't cost you anything to file an appeal.  Zip me an email at if you need information on recent home sales in your neighborhood.

Speaking of taxes, the poll I did on this blog's homepage asking you to vote on whether you were in favor of a tax increase by the city for the purpose of purchasing parkland and funding park improvements has ended.  A total of 48 people responded with 68 percent voting no.  The poll was very unscientific, but interesting to note The Crier is conducting a similar poll, and last I saw, 58 percent were against the bond with another 18 percent needing more time to review the referendum.

New License Plate

The state of Georgia has a new license plate on the way, and you can help decide what it looks like.  The state is conducting a design contest asking the public to vote.  Click on Design Contest to see the 8 choices, and to cast your vote.  I voted for Tag ID #6.  Thank you Geri Penn for bringing this to my attention. 

Parade Wrap Up

Kudos go to Pam Tallmadge and Penny Forman for another outstanding job in organizing the Dunwoody Parade!  The two give of their time selflessly - it's an amazing undertaking.  As a member of the DHA Board, I was a volunteer this year and had the unenviable task of keeping the parade moving once it hit the Dunwoody Village parking lot, as well as making sure no one parked in the designated areas of the lot leading up to the parade (you would be surprised to hear some of the stories on why folks "needed" to park there, and why they couldn't walk an extra 200 feet).  Needless to say, I didn't make many friends.

For some great pictures of the parade, click on Dunwoody Patch.  My favorite photo (below) is of Councilman John Heneghan hamming-it-up in the dunk tank, which, by the way, raised over $500 for Families of Fallen Soldiers.  A big thanks to Heyward Wescott for sponsoring the tank!