Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm Running for City Council!

The article below appears in Tuesday's Crier.  Some would say that I'm out of my mind - including my wife - but I really do get a lot of satisfaction in being part of the community.  In the next few weeks I will be outlining my thoughts on the city, but simply read some of my past blogs and you know where I stand.

Bob Fiscella, a Dunwoody resident since 1993 and current vice president of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, has announced he will run for the Dunwoody City Council District 2 at-large seat being vacated by Danny Ross.

Fiscella is a residential realtor with Keller Williams, and a one-time Emmy Award-winning sportscaster with Fox Sports and CNN. He has been an active member of All Saints Church since moving to Dunwoody, is currently president of his Springfield neighborhood association, and the out-going vice president of Kingsley Racquet & Swim Club.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting involved in this community, and would love to continue to do so as a member of city council “Fiscella said. “Councilman Ross has done a great job to ensure our tax dollars are wisely spent, and certainly that would be one of my priorities.”

“I can’t think of a better person to sit on the council than Bob,” said Sandy Springs Police Department major and Dunwoody resident David Bertrand. “He takes the necessary time to understand all sides of the issues, and his trust factor is off the charts.”
Fiscella is a graduate of the University of Texas with a degree in broadcast journalism. He has been married to Rita Fiscella since 1995. His 12-year old son Jack is a sixth grader at Peachtree Charter Middle School; his nine-year old daughter Danielle is in fourth grade at Dunwoody Elementary School. Previously, both attended Vanderlyn Elementary.

Fiscella is also a familiar sight at Murphey Candler Park, helping coach and support his son’s baseball and football teams, and his daughter’s softball teams. He is an avid blogger; his site is www.dunwoodyusa.org.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Update From Councilman Wittenstein

Dear Dunwoody Friends and Neighbors,

The big news this month is the negotiations for the city to purchase the vacant hospital site on Shallowford Road. Included in the pending acquisition is the two medical buildings next door which provide a 19 acre parcel for a potential future park.
Here is the deal. If the parks land acquisition bond referendum passes in November, then we purchase the property for $5.5 million ($289 thousand per acre.) If it doesn't pass then we can walk away with no costs. This gives voters at least one indication of "what would we do with the money" if we vote to approve the parks land acquisition bond.

Additionally this month we made three important steps regarding zoning and roads.
First, we have authorized a multi-year project to evaluate our zoning code from top to bottom and present suggested revisions section by section. When the city formed,we accepted DeKalb's County's 30 year-old code lock-stock-and-barrel. It is time for us to decide how we want Dunwoody to develop. Did you know that we use the exact same zoning code for Perimeter Mall as we do for Dunwoody Village? If someone wanted to put a large car dealership in Dunwoody Village, they would be within their rights according to the current zoning code. I'm not sure that is what Dunwoody residents want to see. This will be a very public process and will be done in waves over the next couple of years.
Second, we have authorized an engineering company to develop a design for improvements to the intersection of Tilly Mill and North Peachtree. This is one of the most congested intersections in Dunwoody.
Third, we have a contract to purchase a piece of land near Georgetown that gives us a start on a project to extend Peachford Road from North Shallowford over to Georgetown. Someday this will provide muchneeded additional east-west connectivity. The cost for these 5.2 acres is $1.4 million ($278 thousand per acre.) An empty medical office building currently occupies the site (next to the post office sorting facility.)
Finally, some very good news. We conservatively estimated revenue from the State for HOST funds. This is our fair share of the one-penny sales tax paid on all purchases in DeKalb County. We will receive $3.7 million more than budgeted. These funds are restricted to capital improvement projects like repaving, paying for 911 cutover costs, land acquisition or vehicle replacement. The exact allocation will be determined during the 2012 budgeting process, which begins in September.
Take Care,

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Day at East Lake

As an avid golfer, I got the opportunity to play my favorite course in the metropolitan area on Tuesday - East Lake Golf Club.  The experience is second to none for reasons that extend far beyond golf.  If you're not familiar with the East Lake "miracle," click on the photo below. 

Kayla McClendon
The 12-minute, 39-second news video, which aired on CNBC, chronicles how Atlanta developer and philanthropist Tom Cousins turned the most violent, poverty-stricken neighborhood in the metro area, into a centerpiece of the city.  When Cousin's project began in the mid-90's, only five percent of the neighborhood children met Georgia school standards.  Today, 98 percent meet or exceed the standards.  Tuesday I had the opportunity to meet one of those students, an impressive 15-year old named Kayla McClendon.  A tenth grader who's part of the First Tee of East Lake, Kayla will hit the ceremonial first shot at this year's Tour Championship by Coca Cola.  Kayla spoke of how the first tee program not only taught her golf skills but life skills - a very impressive young lady who's surely got a scholarship waiting in the wings.  
To learn more about how you can help the wonderful programs going on at East Lake, click East Lake Foundation.  Of course, you can always buy a ticket and attend the Tour Championship, September 22-25, and watch golf's best.  Admission is free to all military, and you don't have to leave your cell phone at home - they are welcome.  As long as you keep them on silent.
Oh by the way, I sank a short putt on my final hole to break 90!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bank Near Publix Robbed

Photo Courtesy of Atlanta Journal Constitution
By Marcus K. Garner
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Police already had reason to be on alert for the getaway car in Friday's brazen Dunwoody bank robbery.
The silver Mitsubishi Galant had been taken from its owner at gunpoint earlier that morning in Sandy Springs, police say.

According to police reports, around 1 a.m., the owner pulled up to the mailboxes at the Harbor Pointe Apartments and was approached by a man asking him, "Where is the Taco Bell?"
"When the victim got out of his car, a guy walked up and took it from him at gunpoint," Sandy Springs police spokesman Lt. Keith Zgonc said.
The bandit, described as a dark-skinned black man with a goatee, wearing a black T-shirt and blue jean shorts, standing 6-feet-tall and weighing about 190 pounds, pointed the gun at the victim and told him to run.
Police say two men used that same car -- with Georgia license tag BUV-2115 -- to escape following the late-morning bank robbery.
The pair robbed the Chase Bank at 5552 Dunwoody Village Parkway shortly after 11 a.m.
At the bank, two masked men entered waiving guns and ordered the tellers and customers inside to branch -- about eight people in all -- to the floor, according to one witness.
Before leaving, at least one of the masked bandits fired two shots into the ceiling, Dunwoody police spokeswoman Officer Kelly Boyer said. Police have not determined why the shots were fired, and no one was injured.
Boyer said the men left in the stolen Mitsubishi headed toward Sandy Springs.
The suspects were described as black males, one wearing a black T shirt and blue jeans, and the other wearing all black. One of them also had a towel wrapped around his head, Boyer said.
Area police are on the lookout for the vehicle.
Police are asking anyone with information on the robbery to call Dunwoody police Det. Andrew Thompson at 678-382-6921.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Movie Under the Stars; The Other Dunwoody

A reminder that the City of Dunwoody is hosting, free of charge, a family-friendly movie Friday night at Brook Run Park.  The film, Mars Needs Moms, is a Disney sci-fi animation that features the voices of Seth Green and Joan Cusak.  Bring your lawn chairs and blankets.   The movie stars at 8:45pm (or after dark).  For more details, click Dunwoody's showing of Mars Needs Moms, and for the movie trailer, click on the photo above.

One View on Parks' Bonds

As some of you may know, at this point in time, I am against the City of Dunwoody's $33 million dollar bond for parks' improvements.  In order to vote for the bond, I would need to know a lot more about how this money will be spent.  I don't think it's wise to write a blank check to anyone.  And I want to know if all other avenues have been exausted in order to raise this money (have we solicited every major company in the metro Atlanta area to gauge their interest in "sponsoring" a park - i.e. naming rights)?  Plus, I see this bond as a "want" and not a "need." 
As for the land acquisition bond, it has merit.  However, I still need to know a lot more about the properties the city plans to purchase.  Are we targeting properties that will limit future high-density housing that would continue the overcrowding of our schools and roads? 
Those are my brief thoughts.  This morning, I found it interesting to read the thoughts of "The Other Dunwoody."  I have no idea who the author of this blog is, but at the very least, this person brings up some points to ponder.  Click on The Other Dunwoody to read. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Repaving Tilly Mill

If you're like me and have to drive on Tilly Mill Rd. on a regular basis, the scene in the photo above, taken yesterday, was like sweet music to the ears.  Or, to be more precise, tires.  The city is repaving!  The section of Tilly Mill from Peeler Rd. to Peachtree Industrial was one of the worst stretches of road in the metropolitan Atlanta area (okay, I exaggerate).  Even the most skilled drivers couldn't avoid hitting multiple potholes.  Now - it's smooth sailing.  My tires, not to mention shocks, thank the city!

Tax Bills are Out

Yesterday I received my tax bill from DeKalb County and was ecstatic!  My property taxes had actually dropped by a few hundred dollars.  But then I read the bill more closely.  Since I filed an appeal on my taxes, the county can only charge 85 percent of the total tax.  If not for the appeal, my taxes would have/perhaps will increase by over $300 from last year.  In the meantime, I'll wait for DeKalb County to double by sanitation rates.  That should be appearing on a bill in the not-too-distant future!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dunwoody to Purchase 24 Acres

Below is the news release from the city announcing the intent to purchase three more plots of land totaling 24 acres.  Part of the purchase is contingent on the city passing the land acquisition bond referendum, which is on the November ballot.
I love the fact that the city has done an exceptional job of building up reserves to pay for part of the purchase.  This land could be otherwise used for multi-family housing, adding more students to our already overcrowded schools and more cars to our already overcrowded roads.
However, the rest of the purchase will have to come from a tax increase (the land acquisition bond).  While I'm almost always against tax increases, this one appears to make sense, although $33 million seems excessive (I am against the parks' improvement bond, but that's a blog post for another day).  Next Monday night's city council meeting should be interesting (by the way, go to Rick Callihan's blog at Dunwoody Talk to see a better map of the properties up for acquisition.  Rick's Photoshop skills are much better than mine, although the photo above did come from the city and not yours truly).

Dunwoody, Georgia – August 15, 2011 – The City of Dunwoody has concluded negotiations with American Medicorp and plans to acquire several key parcels, totaling 24 acres, in the Georgetown / North Shallowford area of Dunwoody. These purchases will move forward the implementation of the Parks, Transportation, and Georgetown Master Plans, which were all adopted earlier this year.

The City plans to conduct a public hearing as part of its regularly scheduled Council Meeting on Monday, August 22nd and will consider a Resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a sales contract for the purchases.

Peachford Road Extension

Location: 4471 North Shallowford Road
Price: $1,436,000 ($278K per acre)
5.173 acre parcel contains 12,067 sq. foot office building
Purchase is the first acquisition of several that are necessary to extend Peachford Road to a new terminus point at Dunwoody Park Drive
Part of Transportation and Georgetown Master Plans

Park Land Acquisition

Location: 4553/4555/4575 North Shallowford Road (anchored by the former Emory Hospital site)
Price: $5,532,000 ($289K per acre)
Parcels total to 19.084 acres
Purchase adds needed park land acreage
Part of Parks and Georgetown Master Plans
Purchase contingent on Parks Acquisition Bond Referendum

Funding for the Peachford Road Extension purchase will be funded from existing cash reserves and the transaction is expected to close by the end of 2011. The purchase of the park land is contingent on the passage of the bond referendum on the November 2011 ballot. Should the bond fail to pass the City can withdraw from the contract without penalty.

At closing, the City has agreed to reimburse the seller $600,000 for demolition costs at the former Emory Hospital site.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

DeKalb Picks Finalist for Superintendent, Not Everyone Pleased

Cheryl Atkinson
Obviously the powers-that-be in the DeKalb County School System got who they wanted as the system's next superintendent - because this time there wasn't leak!
The school board has choosen Cheryl Atkinson as its finalist to become the school system's next superintendent.  Atkinson currently is superintendent of Lorain, Ohio schools. She previously served in administrative positions in Kansas City, Mo.; Charlotte, and Charleston, S.C. She will visit DeKalb in the next 14 days to meet with parents and other residents.  Click AJC to read more.
But not everyone on the board is happy about it.  Two board members, Nancy Jester of Dunwoody and Don McChesney, have made their feelings known that Atkinson is a lesser choice than previous finalist-in-waiting.  The only reason she is now the finalist is because she is the choice of the board member(s) who choose to leak the names of the previous choices, thus derailing their chances. 
Click McChesney and Jester to read their comments - it's quite revealing.  And it also underscores the problems within the school system - problems that won't go away anytime soon.
As usual with the school system, DeKalb County School Watch is all over the new superintendent-finalist - the blog is peppered with opinions.

Bridge on Spalding Closed

Beginning Monday, August 15 at noon, the Ball Mill Creek Bridge, located on Spalding Drive will be closed for repairs. City officials were given verbal notification from the Georgia Department of Transportation's State Bridge Maintenance Unit late on Thursday, August 11 that the bridge required maintenance. It was determined through an underwater inspection that the bridge has an undermining of one of the foundations and requires immediate maintenance.

Ball Mill Creek Bridge

The bridge is a 34-foot single span steel and concrete bridge constructed in 1929. The condition identified by the Georgia Department of Transportation is repairable through stabilization and does not require replacement of the bridge at this time.
Plans call for the City to retain a specialty contractor to stabilize the bridge. Repair of the bridge is anticipated to commence on Tuesday, August 16 and be completed in six (6) weeks, weather permitting. The suggested detour route is Ball Mill Road to Dunwoody Club Drive from the east and Roberts Drive to Dunwoody Club Drive from the west. The public is asked to use extreme caution and maintain the posted speed limit in the residential areas along the detour route. The detour map includes the primary as well as alternate detour routes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Interest Rates, Tax Bills

While the local housing market continues to stall (although some areas of the country are showing increases of up to 18 percent since February), interest rates are at historic lows.  One of my trusted lenders, Randy Lipp of Starkey Mortgage, came running into the office on Wednesday to say that rates on 30-year, conventional, fixed mortgages had dropped as low as 3.875 percent for folks with exceptional credit.  Amazing! 
To add perspective to this number:  principal and interest on a 30-year fixed loan of $300,000 with a rate of 5.5 percent would be $1,703.37 per month.  With an interest rate of 3.875, that monthly number would drop to $1,410.71. 
Bottom line, if you have at least 20 percent equity in your home (and not everyone does since housing prices started to slump in mid-year 2007) and an interest rate of 5 percent or above, now is the time to consider refinancing.  The savings could be substantial.

Have You Received Your Tax Bill?

Have you received your tax bill yet?  Dunwoody councilman Robert Wittenstein reminded me that this year taxes are due a month later.  Click on DeKalb County to read the message from the tax commissioner.  Click on councilman John Heneghan's Blog to read more.

Monday, August 8, 2011

DeKalb Schools Start 2011-2012 School Year

As the sun rose this morning, this was the scene all across Dunwoody as half-awake students waited for the bus to pick them up for the first day of school.  DeKalb County started its 2011-12 school year on Monday - many of the local private schools begin later this week.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dunwoody Repaving Starts

Dunwoody, Georgia – August 03, 2011 – Allied Paving Contractors, Inc. will begin a major road resurfacing project for the City of Dunwoody Thursday morning, August 4, on Roberts Drive and will proceed to Perimeter Center North Monday, August 8. This is in an effort to maintain two-way traffic flow and contain paving to the retail district during the first week of school. Paving is expected to continue through October, weather permitting.
Roads included in the resurfacing segment of the paving plan include:

Click on List to Enlarge

Football is in the Air

Murphey Candler's Atlanta Colts football started up this week for 4th-7th graders.