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Suwanee Police Earn Re-Accreditation with Excellence

The Suwanee Police Department recently attained re-accreditation with excellence from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Police Chief Mike Jones and other agency representatives were awarded the agency's re-accreditation at the CALEA conference in Charleston, SC on November 5, 2016.

"I am extremely proud for the department to be re-accredited with excellence by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies," said Chief Jones. "CALEA accreditation represents a significant professional achievement and is confirmation that the Suwanee Police Department practices are consistent with progressive professional standards. This accreditation validates the high standards we hold our personnel to and is aligned with national guidelines." 

CALEA assessors spent several days evaluating the department in June, examining all aspects of Suwanee Police policy and procedures, management, operations, and support services. Verification by an outside assessment team is part of a voluntary process, confirming that the Suwanee Police Department meets the CALEA commission's state-of-the-art standards. Accreditation is a highly prized recognition of public safety professional excellence.

Newport News, VA Assistant Police Chief Stacy Kelly, team leader of the assessment team said in his report, "The Suwanee Police Department is an extremely professional organization and they should serve as an example for other law enforcement agencies across the country".

An accreditation cycle is three years, during which the agency must submit annual reports attesting continued compliance with those standards under which it was initially accredited. The CALEA Commission awarded the reaccreditation with excellence status by complying with all applicable mandatory standards and at least 90 percent of the non-mandatory standards.

"The Suwanee Police Department has to comply with over 400 applicable standards in order to gain accredited status," said Jones.  "CALEA accreditation is the benchmark for the professional standards a law enforcement agency needs to meet today."

City of Suwanee Launches Open Budget Website

In an effort to provide complete and clear financial information, the City of Suwanee has launched its open data budget website, ensuring that city financial data is easily accessible and understandable for citizens.

The City leveraged Seattle-based Socrata's financial transparency suite of applications to publish their online budget data quickly, economically, and in a consumer-friendly way. Rather than wading through hundreds of pages of scanned documents of legal and financial information, citizens and staff see financial data contextualized in charts, graphs, and images are attractive, navigable, and easy to understand.

"We're big believers in authenticity and transparency in government, and that certainly includes our financials. Our citizens should be able to easily access and understand our spending. At its most simplified, this is the taxpayers' money, and it's their right to know that we are being fiscally responsible for their dollars," said Amie Sakmar, Suwanee's Director of Finance. "The open data website is incredibly intuitive, and allows citizens to dig as far as their interests take them."

This program brings life to the City's static citizen operating budget: it makes the numbers interactive and shows the annual progress of collections and expenditures. Prior, the City would produce the budget in brief but the document and numbers where not updated as reviewable presentation for citizens to easily review and understand. This system provides the transparency of how the budget is performing on an ongoing basis, not just a snapshot of a moment in time.

"We will be using the open budget program to replace our monthly financial reports for departments and council," said Sakmar. "The new program will allow departments and council to obtain current data in a simple, non-technical manner. If our mayor likes looking at information as a bar graph, he can do it.  The city clerk prefers a pie chart? She can do it. Planning director wants to know what has happened over the past five years? It can easily be done. The ability to obtain current information in different formats will help decision makers be successful in monitoring financial data, understanding trends, and identify budgetary problems before they occur."

Visit budget.suwanee.com to explore the open budget, or contact Amie Sakmar at 770-904-2797 or asakmar@suwanee.com for more information.

Suwanee Unveils Gwinnett County's First Bike Share Program

An exciting new transportation option has come to Gwinnett County! The City of Suwanee unveiled its new bike share program on Saturday, October 22 at Town Center Park.

Sponsored by CIGNA and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, bike station structures – equipped with self-sustaining internal energy sources – have been installed at Suwanee Creek Park and Town Center Park and will each house up to eight bikes. The bikes may be rented for up to three hours for free, with each additional hour costing $3 per hour. The maximum fee for all day use of a bike is $30. All riders must be at least 18 years old and provide their own helmets.

"Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is pleased to be a part of this wonderful recreation opportunity in Suwanee," said CHOA Community Development Officer Annie Valenty. "As an organization dedicated to health and wellness, we believe in programs that encourage families to be active. This bike program will undoubtedly foster the importance of regular family recreation to all in the community."

Bikes can be easily rented via smart phone app. Signage explaining the use of the bike share program will be placed at each station to orient new users to the system. In addition, those interested can visit zagster.com/suwanee for answers to questions such as usage, fees, station location, etc.  Bikes and stations will be maintained by Zagster, the leading provider of bike share programs for cities, universities, businesses and properties. The Zagster system is currently being used in the City of Alpharetta, Town Center CID, and City of Smyrna, to name a few.

Bikes can be ridden anywhere, including on the City's extensive greenway system. A large part of the Downtown Suwanee Master Plan, the city features over 16 miles of interconnected multi-use, multi-medium trails.

"We are excited to sponsor the very first bike share program in Gwinnett County!" said Scott Kennedy, Director of Client Management at CIGNA. "This additional recreation option will encourage further use of the amazing greenway, trail system, and parks that Suwanee has to offer."

The program unveiling ceremony was held in conjunction with the Alive! Festival, benefitting Project Green. The goal of the Alive! Festival is to help attendees learn how to integrate health and wellness plus natural, organic, and green products into environmentally responsible eco living and to create a positive impact on the world as a whole.

Suwanee City Council Approves Town Center West Master Plan

The Suwanee City Council unanimously approved the master plan for the city's newest park, Town Center West, at their September 27 meeting.

Located on the approximately 25-acre site known as the DeLay Property, Town Center West will be situated behind the Suwanee library and PlayTown Suwanee on Suwanee Dam Road. The property was purchased in 2002 as an early acquisition of their community-driven comprehensive park and open space initiative.

"The success of Town Center Park has exceeded all expectations," said Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette. "The park draws over 200,000 visitors annually to events, as well as regularly serving our 18,000 citizens. The new Town Center Park West will help ease the demand on the existing park and surrounding community."

The park will feature a mixture of urban and rural environments, including:

  • A roughly 900-foot, elevated signature bridge for pedestrian and bicycle use, spanning the entire park and crossing an approximately one-acre water feature,
  • An open terrace plaza and lawn area at the peak of the park's elevation that will include several small-scale micro-business sites serving park patrons,
  • An extension of the existing Playtown Suwanee geared toward older children, expanding the age range of Playtown Suwanee without interfering with its existing success,
  • Sandpit volleyball courts, and
  • An iconic public art piece.

The wooded area along the existing Brushy Creek Greenway (roughly 15 acres) will remain undisturbed.

The new park design is influenced by the style and quality of Town Center Park, but is by no means a replica, and will have its own unique character, personality, and purpose. Plans call for an accentuated pedestrian connection by reworking City Hall Park into a visible, logical linkage of the two sites. The topography of Town Center Park West will allow it to overlook Town Center, further enhancing the relationship of the two parks.

The biggest change this area will see is the realignment of Main Street, which will shift around the park and exit onto Suwanee Dam Road at an existing traffic signal, greatly improving the safety and traffic flow by allowing the median break on Suwanee Dam Road to be closed.

Over the last few months, the City of Suwanee has hired a team of professionals and sought input from community members via stakeholder interviews, over 1,000 in-person and online surveys of park users, four planning workshops, two design charrettes, and a variety of other meetings and presentations. The anticipated cost associated with Town Center Park West is roughly $12 million; a timetable for construction has not been established.

"Concepts were developed and refined through this process with the needs and wants of all stakeholders in mind," said Burnette. "The community input led to a design that maximizes the opportunities of the site and provides diverse experiences."

City of Suwanee Adds New Wayfinding Signage

Citizens and visitors alike will begin noticing new wayfinding signage throughout the City of Suwanee, alerting travelers to city and county parks, Suwanee's historic downtown, and other notable locations.

The new signs will serve to help visitors – as well as residents – find community and cultural destinations throughout the city. The wayfinding signage has been placed in 13 locations, and will not only provide directional information, but serve to highlight the city's wide range of attractions through universal design standards that are reflective of the city's brand identity.

"While the only real job of wayfinding signage is to tell people where they are, where their destination is, and how to connect those two points, it can do so much more," said Assistant City Manager Denise Brinson. "In addition to basic navigation, our wayfinding signage introduces the 'personality' of Suwanee and connects to our brand and promote further points of interest that people may not have been aware of."

City of Suwanee Awarded for Excellence in Financial Reporting

Once again, the City of Suwanee has been awarded for excellence in financial reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA).

The city's comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) recently won the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, which Suwanee has now won for 13 consecutive years. The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment.

"The City of Suwanee's CAFR is "the tale of Suwanee," told through numbers," said city Financial Services Director Amie Sakmar. "It also includes some interesting statistics, graphs, and pictures. Preparing a CAFR is considered best practices in governmental finance."

The submitted financial documents are judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, including demonstrating a constructive "spirit of full disclosure" to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the documents.

The GFOA is a nonprofit professional association serving approximately 17,500 government finance professionals with offices in Chicago and Washington, DC. GFOA established the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program (CAFR Program) in 1945 to encourage and assist state and local governments to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure and then to recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal.

Reports submitted to the CAFR program are reviewed by selected members of the GFOA professional staff and the GFOA Special Review Committee (SRC), which comprises individuals with expertise in public sector financial reporting and includes financial statement preparers, independent auditors, academics, and other finance professionals.

Proposed Millage Rate to Remain at 4.93

The City of Suwanee has proposed a millage rate of 4.93 mills, the same proposed rate used in the adopted FY 2017 budget and the same rate used by the City over the past four years.

That rate, however, is higher than the calculated rollback rate of 4.687 mills – this is the rate that would be expected to generate the same total revenue as the previous year.

City Council is expected to adopt a fiscal year 2017 millage rate at its August 23 meeting. Because the proposed rate is anticipated to generate a 5.18 percent increase in property tax revenues, due to rising property values, the City of Suwanee will hold three public hearings on this increase.

Millage rate public hearings will be in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall on

  • Tuesday, August 23 at noon
  • Tuesday, August 23 at 6:30 p.m.

The proposed 4.93 millage rate will result in a property tax increase of 5.18 percent. This proposed increase for a home with a fair market value of $260,000 is approximately $25.27 and an increase of $53.46   for a nonresidential property with a fair market value of $550,000.

City of Suwanee Once Again Awarded for Superior Management

For the eighth consecutive year, the City of Suwanee has been recognized by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) for superior performance management. Suwanee was one of nine jurisdictions throughout the country this year to receive a Certificate of Distinction from ICMA's Center for Performance Measurement.

"The certificate program recognizes communities that have demonstrated leadership in continuous improvement and community engagement using performance analysis," said ICMA Executive Director Robert J. O'Neill, Jr. "Performance analysis is an integral component of professional local government management, and jurisdictions meeting the certificate qualifications serve as examples for other governments to follow."

In order to earn a Certificate of Distinction, jurisdictions must:

  • Report performance data to the public through budgets, newsletters, etc.
  • Undertake data verification efforts to ensure reliability
  • Provide staff training
  • Use performance data in strategic planning and operational decision-making
  • Share performance measurement knowledge with other local governments.

According to ICMA, the certificate program assesses a local government's performance management program and encourages analysis of results by comparing to peers and gauging performance over time. Performance management aids in cost reduction, program prioritization, and quality improvement while encouraging accountability and transparency.

Suwanee Adds to Already Impressive Greenway System

The City of Suwanee is pleased to introduce the newest member of our community – the brand-new Brushy Creek Greenway! The path is a one-mile multi-use trail that will connect Suwanee Dam Road at Delay Road to Stonecypher Road near Main Street.

A combination of concrete and boardwalk, the heavily wooded trail will follow the Brushy Creek corridor. The shade, combined with shorter distance, makes the Brushy Creek Greenway ideal for treks with younger children – particularly since it connects to PlayTown Suwanee and the library.

"The Brushy Creek Greenway is integral to our connected greenway system," said Marty Allen, Suwanee's City Manager. "The new trail is also in-line with the alternative transportation portion of our Downtown Suwanee Master Plan by creating more walking and biking opportunities for our citizens."

The Master Plan also calls for a greenway connection from Stonecypher Road south to McGinnis Ferry Road – a link that will also occur along Brushy Creek, helping to form the spine of the future Town Center Park West and improve connections among residential areas, Old Town, and Town Center.

Fashioned by Peachstate Construction, Brushy Creek Greenway brings the current mileage of Suwanee's greenway system to 3 miles. Eighty percent of the project was paid for with Transportation Enhancement Grant funds from the Georgia Department of Transportation, with the remaining 20 percent coming from SPLOST and the general fund. Access and parking for the greenway is currently off of Main Street and PlayTown Suwanee.

City of Suwanee Saves $3M Through Bond Refinance

The Suwanee City Council adopted a bond resolution and bond purchase agreement at their May 24, 2016 City Council Meeting and voted to approve the refinancing of the city's outstanding Open Space bonds, resulting in savings of $3 million over the life of the bond for Suwanee tax payers.

Based on current market conditions and Suwanee's AAA bond rating, the city was able to forward refund the approximately $12.3 million bond and lock-in at a 1.96 percent rate (formerly 4.3 percent) with JPMorgan Chase. This option provides a fiscal year comparison savings of $3 million, as well as shortening the outstanding debt from 16 to 10 years.

"The City's credit and reputation again brought strong interest from the banking sector, and we received some great bids," said Amie Sakmar, City of Suwanee Financial Services Director. "Suwanee is thrilled to be partnering once again with JPMorgan Chase in these efforts to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money."

Last fall, the City of Suwanee refinanced 2006 revenue bonds – also with JPMorgan Chase – that were used to help fund construction of Suwanee City Hall, saving the city approximately $180,000.  

"This allows us the opportunity to save the taxpayers millions of dollars by getting out-of-debt sooner," said Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette.  "Like the previous refunding, it's a win-win situation."

Suwanee Police Department Named Georgia Agency of the Year

The Georgia Chapter of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Academy Associates (FBINAA) presented the Suwanee Police Department with the Phyllis Goodwin Agency of the Year Award at the organization's annual summer conference last week.

The annual award recognizes agencies that excel in support of the FBINAA Georgia Chapter. Criteria for the award is measured in the categories of how the agency's efforts present themselves in a manner that lend strength, dignity, and credit to the law enforcement profession, the impact the agency's efforts have had on the Georgia chapter of the FBINAA, and the positive impacts involving agency programs and services made in the community.

"The chapter could not be successful without the support of departments like the Suwanee Police Department," said Sandy Springs Police Department Deputy Chief Keith Zgonc, who serves as the 2nd Vice President of the FBINAA Georgia Chapter. "Their support and dedication is a great example to all of our members."

The award is named for Phyllis Goodwin, who worked with the FBI for almost 38 years. During most of those years she served as the police training tech and she assisted officers who wanted to attend the national academy.

"The Suwanee Police Department personnel who have graduated from the FBI National Academy serve as active members of the FBINAA's Georgia Chapter, serving in leadership and support positions throughout the years," said Suwanee Chief of Police Mike Jones.

"I have been a strong supporter of the FBI National Academy since graduating from the 155th session in 1986. The organization does so much to enhance law enforcement profession as a whole. I am humbled at the recognition that the Suwanee Police Department has received from the FBINAA."

Suwanee Youth Leaders Program Wins Top Regional Award

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) recently awarded Suwanee Youth Leaders – a community-based program of the City of Suwanee – a 2015 CREATE Community Award in the category of Educational Excellence. City Assistant Manager Denise Brinson and Downtown & Business Development Manager Adam Edge, along with several Suwanee Youth Leader alumni, were on hand at the March 23 ARC board meeting at the Loudermilk Center for Regional Community to accept the award.

"The Suwanee Youth Leaders program allows the City to make a genuine commitment to the youth in our community," said Edge. "While it's an honor to win a CREATE Community Award, it's an even greater reward to see kids becoming invested in their community through this initiative."

Now in its third year, Suwanee Youth Leaders (SYL) is an eight-month leadership program for high school sophomores and juniors who attend public, private, or home-based schools and live within three Gwinnett County Public School districts. The program centers on civic involvement, leadership skills, and volunteer opportunities. SYL develops young leaders through structured monthly educational programs and teambuilding activities. Participants gain genuine exposure to local initiatives and community and civic leaders, while helping the City engage with youth so that they have a strong voice and active role in planning the City's success. Meetings, led by local leaders, include engaging subjects such as leadership principles and practices, ethics in society, law and justice, and community involvement. The program culminates with hands-on service opportunities at Suwanee Fest, serving alongside adult volunteers from the community.

Thanks to SYL, says Brinson, "We now have a group of young people who have more knowledge of their community and how local government works and the work that goes into building community. The City wanted to develop a real connection with our schools and find a way to meaningfully encourage youth involvement as prescribed in our strategic plan – not just checking a box, but building sincere, authentic relationships."

City of Suwanee Full of Tree Huggers

The City of Suwanee was among 25 Georgia communities designated as a "Tree City USA," recognizing the city for its commitment to caring for and managing their public trees during the 2016 State Arbor Day celebration at Trees Atlanta.

Tree City USA provides the framework for community forestry management for cities and towns across the country. With the help of volunteers, the City planted elm and oak trees at the municipal court/Crossroads Center, which helped it meet the standards necessary to be a Tree City USA for its 25th consecutive year.

"Trees clean our air, filter our water, spur economic growth, and provide countless opportunities to enjoy recreation, contributing to a better quality of life," said Robert Farris, Director of the Georgia Forestry Commission. "The citizens of Suwanee can take pride in their community leaders' commitment to trees and forested land."

As part of its ongoing commitment to being a Tree City USA and in celebration of the state's Arbor Day, volunteers planted trees along the new Brushy Creek Trail on Saturday, March 26.

"While planting an oak or elm tree might sound arduous, planting these trees really is not back-breaking work," said Dan Robinson, City of Suwanee City Planner and coordinator for the Tree City program. "Just about anyone can do it, and it's a great way to give back to the environment and to make an impact on the community for many years to come."

Snap Suwanee Photo Contest Winners on Exhibit at City Hall

Rainy October Morning by Glen Sharpe

Let's Play by Amanda Myers

Rock-n-Roll by Terri Lynn Bealle

From getting back to nature to experiencing public art; enjoying the fresh air at a festival to taking photos from high in the air (via drone), the 2016 Snap Suwanee submissions illustrate the Suwanee community in a unique and beautiful way.

Sponsored by Suwanee's Public Arts Commission, the annual Snap Suwanee competition provides a means for participants to share images that communicate something telling about the Suwanee community. Over 70 entries were received for this year's annual community photo competition. The winning photographs will be on display until February 2017.

"Snap Suwanee is a fantastic opportunity to see the various aspects of our community through the eyes of our citizens and visitors," said Suwanee Public Information Officer Abby Wilkerson. "The photos submitted for this year's contest capture everything we love about Suwanee, including quite a few from unique perspectives that we've never seen before." 

The winning photos and photographers in the exhibit are:

  • Art in the Park – Steve White
  • Can I Have a Bite – Amanda Myers
  • Foggy December Sunrise – Amanda Myers
  • Ice Castle – Dick Goodman
  • Jars of Flowers – Amanda Myers
  • Let's Play – Amanda Myers
  • JUDGES' CHOICE WINNER   Rainy October Morning – Glen Sharpe
  • Rock-n-Roll – Terri Lynn Bealle
  • Sims Lake Bench – Tiffany Kelly
  • PEOPLE'S CHOICE WINNER   Snow Unicorn – Andea Smith
  • Stairs – Tiffany Kelly
  • The Drone – Anand Vyas
  • Tower in the Sky – Joseph Ader

Suwanee Cocktail pARTy Celebrates Public Art Initiative

Photo by R Scott Quaddy

Swanky, well-dressed art lovers descended upon Suwanee City Hall Saturday night, March 5, 2016 to celebrate the arts in Suwanee. A black-and-white, black-tie optional event, 'Guess Who's Coming to Cocktails,' served as a fund- and awareness-raiser for the City's lauded public arts initiative.

Nearly 300 guests were welcomed to the event by a literal fiddler on the roof: violinist Daniel Butman played on the City Hall awning, to the delight of attendees as well as patrons of Town Center Park. Horse-drawn carriage rides around the park showed off several pieces of public art, both permanent and temporary as part of the 2015-2017 SculpTour program.

Photo by R Scott Quaddy

Upon entering City Hall, guests mingled with multiple artists, including Phil Proctor – creator of the popular goat herd at the corner of Buford Highway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road – former NFL player and sculptor George Nock, actor Zane Stephens, filmmakers Scott and Sharon Sowers and Bruce Downs, glass artist Hans Fräbel, authors Lee Martin and Harmon Snipes, and Aurora Theatre artistic director Anthony Rodriguez.

Pop-up performances were given by violinist Roland Huthmaker, ballerina Christina Leamon, performing artists Patty Etherton and Bernie Davis, and the Royal Dance Academy. The event also featured an Iron Chef-style cooking competition that included former "Hell's Kitchen" contestant Chef T Gregoire.

Guests could follow a painted path down the street to tour the North Gwinnett Arts Association's new gallery and enjoy desserts, music, and observe artists at work in their new space. The culmination of the evening was the unveiling of Suwanee's newest piece of art: a piece of the former infamous 'Success Lives Here' water tower. The LIVES portion of the tower is a 7-foot tall, 19-foot long piece of steel weighing just under 2,000 pounds.

Photo by Julie Perdue

"This was just such a great event, and we are so honored to have been a part of it," said Keith Nabb, Lead Educator at Affordable Medicare Solutions, a sponsor of the event. "One of the things that makes the City of Suwanee so unique is that it is a welcome center for creativity and diversity. Being a long-time resident of Suwanee has allowed me to witness that first hand. I'm thrilled to help support this initiative, as well as the great work that the North Gwinnett Arts Association (NGAA) is doing for our community. The past president of the NGAA is Vickie Johnson, a prominent art educator.  Her decade-long vision has been achieved and her enthusiasm and leadership is a main inspiration for our involvement."

Suwanee created its Public Arts Commission in 2008 with the goal of encouraging developers to incorporate artwork into their projects. At the same time, the city began its own public arts programs, including commissioned pieces for city hall and city parks. Suwanee's first Public Art Master Plan, adopted by City Council in August 2015 meeting, calls not for placing public art everywhere, but rather for putting art where it matters most. The plan suggests that Suwanee focus its efforts on public art that is "engaging, fun, memorable, and distinctive;" helps strengthen community connections; and that, in many cases, is temporary.

"There are numerous events, art festivals, and talent here that need to be not only celebrated, but supported and preserved. Making the decision to become a patron of the Public Art Initiative, is going to do great things for our company's area and foundation. I am a raving fan and cannot wait to see what the next ten years hold," said Nabb.

City of Suwanee Benefits from Multiple Scouting Projects

After eight months of planning, four work days, and countless hours of preparation, Girl Scout Troop 2440 has completed work at the Suwanee Harvest Farm, as well as the Sugar Hill community garden at Pirkle Park, towards a Bronze Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior can achieve.

The eleven Scouts – all fourth and fifth graders at Riverside and Walnut Grove Elementary – worked for the better part of the last year, focusing on rehabilitating Harvest Farm's butterfly garden. The troop also created and installed folk art of the United States flag for both parks, after noticing that Scouts frequently hold ceremonies in these areas and that there was currently no flag present.

"We trimmed back some trees that had started behaving like bushes!" said Girl Scout Maya White.

Visitors to Sims Lake Park may have noticed a new addition to the park in the form of a concrete ping pong table. Sixteen-year-old Boy Scout and Suwanee resident Andrew Winton recently completed the project to earn his Eagle Scout badge.

The actual construction of the table took approximately four days to complete, including the mixing of 78 bags of cement – at 80 pound apiece – that went into the creation of the table.

"A lot of my friends built benches for their projects. I was looking for a unique idea that I was interested in," said Winton. "Originally I was going to build checker tables out of wood, but I came across this idea on while researching the wooden checker tables."

Suwanee Police Attain Georgia Law Enforcement Re-Certification

The Suwanee Police Department is proud to announce that it has once again achieved State of Georgia Law Enforcement Certification. The State Certification Program, administered by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, establishes professional standards for which each certified agency must demonstrate compliance.

"Certification status represents a significant professional achievement and is confirmation that Suwanee Police practices are consistent with professional standards," said Suwanee Police Chief Mike Jones. "This certification should instill confidence in our citizens that the standards we hold our personnel to adhere to the highest standards for law enforcement in Georgia."

Experienced law enforcement professionals from outside agencies inspected the Suwanee Police facilities, examined policies and procedures, and auditing files built for each of the 129 certification standards to verify compliance.

"In order to meet certification standards, which cover a wide array of subject matter, the department analyzed in detail both internal and external operations," said Lieutenant Dan Clark, who serves as the certification/accreditation manager for the Suwanee Police. "Meeting the 129 standards enables the department to provide the highest professional service to community."

Chief Jones believed the state certification to be important, and began pursuing the distinction upon taking office in 1999; Suwanee received the endorsement for the first time on January 9, 2000. Certified agencies must file annual reports attesting to their continuing compliance and identify any instances of significant non-compliance, as well as go through a reassessment process every three years.

The Suwanee PD is also accredited by the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

Tic Tac Toe No Mo

A beloved public art installation in Suwanee Town Center has gone away – but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Hundreds of Suwanee citizens have sat, climbed, and had their photos taken on the infamous Tic Tac Toe City Bench, displayed directly in front of Suwanee City Hall. On any given day, the bench could be found covered in children, along with their iPhone-wielding parents, attempting to preserve the memories.

"The Tic Tac Toe City Bench was one of the entries in our SculpTour program," said Suwanee Assistant City Manager Denise Brinson. "Another sculpture by the artist, Love Hurts, stands in Town Center Park as part of the 2015-2017 SculpTour series."

Created by brothers Aaron and Zac Benson out of 180 2 x 4 wood building studs, the Tic Tac Toe City Bench stood proudly in front of City Hall for 11 months. Rather than fill up a dumpster with the used materials, the former art installation has found new life, helping give a worthy family a new home at the same time. Habitat for Humanity will be using the wood from the Tic Tac Toe City Bench in one of their next Gwinnett County home builds.

"Each time we have created a wooden sculpture, we have worked with Habitat for Humanity to repurpose the wood," said Betty Benson of Benson Sculpture. "A screw was placed in the ends of each board and attached to the one below to make the piece secure, and also more usable for Habitat for Humanity."

Benson Sculpture has created wood sculptures in Key West, Indianapolis, Washington, DC, and Sydney, Australia, among other locations. The sculptures are different in form and style and created for the public to interact with them.

Suwanee launched its public art initiative in 2008 with the creation of the Public Arts Commission, adopting a policy of encouraging developers to include public art in their projects and pledging the city to do the same. Since then, the city has commissioned and acquired numerous artworks for its City Hall and major parks, welcomed more than a half-dozen installations placed by developers on their properties, and organized several rounds of SculpTour: a walkable outdoor exhibit of more than 25 temporary and permanent art pieces displayed throughout downtown.

"Our Public Art Master Plan allows for a constant rotation of fresh, new pieces, specifically during our event season, allowing Town Center Park to be dynamic and ever-changing as well," said Brinson. "The Tic Tac Toe City Bench was designed to be one of these temporary installations."

Warm Your Beer-Loving Heart

The Suwanee American Craft Beer Fest is back for its sixth year – bigger and better than ever! Come sample over 300 craft beers on March 19 at Town Center Park with thousands of your closest friends at this award-winning festival with a reputation of being one of the biggest and best beer festivals in the South.

"Although the event continues to grow in size each year, we do not want the overall experience to be compromised. A lot of work has gone into developing a new layout for the event and we're confident that it will improve the flow of the festival, while allowing for shorter lines and additional restrooms," explained Michelle Fasig, Suwanee Beer Festival Event Manager.

Many participating breweries use the experience as an opportunity to debut new or rare seasonal beers at the festival, as well as brewing some specifically for the annual Brew Battle. The festival is packed with activities such as cornhole and beer pong, as well as the largest home brew competition in the area.

Visit suwaneebeerfest.com to purchase tickets or follow "SuwaneeBeerFest" on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for frequent news and updates.

Upcoming Spring Events

Suwanee Spring Fling Kick off the North Gwinnett Baseball & Softball Association's Spring season on March 11 at 6 PM! This event will feature a parade of players, inflatables for jumping fun, a prize raffle, and a family-friendly movie. Visit www.ngbsa.org for more information.

Georgia SPCA Run for the Rescues The March 26 Run for the Rescues 5K, Fun Run & Festival is an annual fundraiser for the Georgia SPCA Animal Shelter in Suwanee. Dogs are welcomed (ENCOURAGED!) to run/walk in both events. Don't have a dog? Pets will be available on-site for adoption! Visit run4rescues.georgiaspca.org for more information.

Community Sunrise Service Join us on the lawn on Easter morning for an hour-long interdenominational event, which consists of music, prayer and a message. pastors, musicians and worshipers from Suwanee area churches will meet for the twelfth year at Town Center Park on March 27 for a 6:30 a.m. sunrise service.

Open Call for Suwanee Fest Logo Designs

The City of Suwanee is looking for designers, artists, and creative people in general to submit logo designs for the 2016 Suwanee Fest. The designer of the winning logo will see his or her design on official festival t-shirts and marketing posters, as well as receive a $500 prize.

The competition is open to professional and amateur designers of all ages. Designs may be hand-drawn or computer-generated. Entries should be submitted in printed and electronic format. The deadline for submissions is April 29. See suwaneefest.com for additional guidelines and an entry form.

The theme for the 2016 festival, to be celebrated September 17 and 18, is "Super City, Super People."

Suwanee in Search of Farmers, Food Trucks, and Warm Spring Breezes

Warm days, fresh produce, and eating al fresco will return to Suwanee before you know it! The Suwanee Farmers Market will be open from 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, May through the first week in October, at Town Center Park.

The Market is in search of farmers, herb and flower growers, butchers, bakers, jams and soap makers, and others to participate in its 12th season. Click here for more information.

Food Truck Fridays will return to Suwanee in April, May, June, August, and September, with each month will bringing great food and music from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm (music begins at 7:00). Interested food truck vendors can apply to be part of these annual events by clicking here.

Suwanee Festival Take Top Honors

The City of Suwanee's brand new event, Big Cheesy, and one of its oldest events, Suwanee Fest, each took home prestigious Kaleidoscope Awards from the Southeast Festivals and Events Association's Annual Conference in Charleston, SC on January 26.  Top festivals and events throughout the southeast were recognized for their outstanding contribution to the events industry.

Suwanee's Big Cheesy took home the top prize in the 'Best New Event Category,' as well as a bronze award for 'Best T-Shirt.' The Suwanee Fest Volunteer Planning Committee won the silver award for 'Best Volunteer,' and the festival won a bronze award for 'Best Children's Program.'

The Southeast Festivals & Events Association is a membership based organization comprised of festival and event planners, venues, and industry service providers. A panel of experts in event planning, marketing and tourism spent an entire day reviewing the entries from five states. The judges looked for originality, creativity, media impact, volunteer programs, and the overall impact to the community.

What Will Your Garden Grow?

There are still a few plots available at Suwanee's Harvest Farm organic community garden! Garden plots are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis with priority given to City residents, property owners, and taxpayers as well as returning gardeners.

Plots are available in three different sizes, with the annual fee ranging from $50-$100. City of Suwanee residents/taxpayers receive a 25 percent discount.

Annual fees include use of a raised bed, utilities, basic community tools, social and educational events, and, when available, compost. Gardeners incur personal expenses for items such as seeds, plants, amendments, stakes, and trellises.

Click here for more information about Harvest Farm, or to apply for a 2016 plot.

Bring One for the Chipper

When your live tree is past its fragrant, sparkly prime, give it a new sense of purpose through the City of Suwanee's "treecycling" campaign, which is part of Keep Georgia Beautiful's annual 'Bring One for the Chipper' program.

Area residents may drop off their former living Christmas trees at Sims Lake Park, located at 4600 Suwanee Dam Road, from December 26 through January 31. Decorations, lights, and stands should be removed from all trees prior to donating. Last year, mulch from nearly 1,200 former Christmas trees was spread in Suwanee parks.

Volunteers will be available to assist with unloading, as well as handing out northern red oak, redbud, and dogwood seedlings (while supplies last) from 9 am-4 pm Saturday, January 2.

Guess Who's Coming to Cocktails

Mark your calendars now for the Suwanee social event of 2016: Guess Who's Coming to Cocktails, hosted at Town Center March 5 from 6:30 – 10:00 PM. Join the swankiest, hippest, and best dressed of Suwanee at this black-and-white, black-tie optional event in support of the Suwanee public art initiative.

"Public art has become such a part of the fabric of our community," says Public Arts Commission member Cherie Heringer. "We wanted to create an annual event to celebrate the arts and to encourage residents to continue to support public art, not just financially but through involvement as well."

Party-goers can look forward to cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, music, and dancing, plus an opportunity to brush elbows with mystery guests – possibly a prominent artist?  Perhaps a renowned author? Perchance, a celebrated athlete?

Tickets are available starting at $100. Reserved tables for six are available for $1,200, and other arts patronage levels range from $5,000-$20,000 with increasing sponsor benefits. Visit SuwaneeGuessWhosComing.com for more information and to purchase tickets.

Trek or Treat

Little princesses, monsters, sports heroes, and celebrities can get a slight head start on Halloween festivities when they attend the City of Suwanee's spook-tacular Trek or Treat event. Held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, October 31, at Suwanee Creek Park, Trek or Treat is designed especially for children ages 10 and younger.

Planned and staffed this year by members of the 2015 Suwanee Youth Leaders class, Trek or Treat includes fall festival-style games, music, contests, inflatables, and a free hot dog lunch while supplies last. Costumes are strongly encouraged.

Bond refinancing to save about $180K

With authorization from the Suwanee Urban Redevelopment Agency, the City of Suwanee plans to close in November on an agreement with JP Morgan Chase to refinance 2006 revenue bonds that were used to help fund construction of Suwanee City Hall. The City still owes about $4 million on the original $6.5 million bonds and, through refinancing at an interest rate of 1.94%, will save approximately $180,000, or about 4.65 percent, across the 11-year payment period that remains.

JP Morgan Chase offered the City a 1.94% fixed interest rate. The original interest rate on the bonds was 3.5%.

"The City's debt policy requires that, unless terms are changed, a savings of at least 3% must be realized in order to refinance debt," says Financial Services Director Amie Sakmar.  "Suwanee's strong financial position – we have a AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor's – make us a good investment, and market conditions and low interest rates make this a good time to refinance. Premier financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase want to partner with us because we're a secure bet."

The City of Suwanee also has about $13 million in general obligation bonds (remaining from $17.7 million in bonds that were originally issued in 2002), which were used to acquire open space and build parks. The City refinanced those bonds in 2006 and cannot, according to IRS rules, refinance again within a 10-year period.

13.1 miles of running fun

You can do this! On Saturday, January 30, the second annual Suwanee Gateway Half Marathon will take off from Town Center Park, meander through Old Town and up Peachtree Industrial, wind along the Suwanee Creek Greenway, and take you up and back Northolt Road. You'll finish spectacularly – or maybe, just finally – at Town Center.

Presented by Georgia Fitness, this Peachtree Road Race qualifier will begin at 7:30 a.m. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three male and female finishers.

Additional race information is available at runsuwanee.com, and registration is open at active.com. The race fee is $65. You may want to register early as the race will be capped at 600 runners, and the fee increases to $85 on December 14. Race-day registration will not be available.

"We had a very successful inaugural event last year," says Georgia Fitness's Jason Vance. "We're looking forward to another great run. It's exciting to us to pull the local running community together in this way that is both fun and challenging."

The race course is, in parts, historic, scenic, and challenging. The elevation gain throughout the race is 613.5 feet.

Snap Suwanee deadline is Dec. 31

Click on the image to enlarge a photo.

Snap – and share – your photos of the Suwanee community through the City's annual Snap Suwanee photo competition. Click here for guidelines and applications. Each photographer may submit up to five photos; the deadline for submissions is December 31.

Photos submitted to the competition should represent the Suwanee community in some way and ideally be taken within the City of Suwanee limits. Winning photographs will be exhibited, beginning in March 2016, for an approximately one-year period at City Hall.

The dozen winning photos from the 2015 competition are currently on display on the first-floor lobby of City Hall and may be viewed from 8 am-5 pm weekdays.

Make 2016 more 'event-ful'

The City of Suwanee is currently accepting event applications for community events to be hosted at City of Suwanee parks during 2016. The deadline for applications is December 11. Once the City's event schedule is approved after the first of the year, no additional events may be added.

Each year, the City of Suwanee hosts, primarily at Town Center Park, more than 40 City- and privately planned events, including concerts, festivals, races, food truck events, and more.

"Events are an important part of community-building in Suwanee," says Events Manager Amy Doherty. "Each year, we love partnering with community organizations to bring great music, fun events, and unique engagement opportunities to our residents and others."

Guidelines are available through the City's Special Events Policy. If you'd like to host a run, check out these tips. Application submission does not constitute event approval.

Seminar offers one-stop business essentials

Being a small-business owner or entrepreneur can sometimes feel like an overwhelming proposition. The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce wants area entrepreneurs to know that there are many resources available to assist them. To that end, the chamber is hosting a Small Business Essentials seminar at Suwanee City Hall from 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, October 21.

The free seminar will cover business and marketing plans, finances and lending assistance, licensing and taxes, minority certification and disadvantaged business assistance, training and mentorship programs, growth, and doing business with the City of Suwanee. Representatives from the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center, SCORE Association, Gwinnett Chamber, City of Suwanee, and Gwinnett County will be part of the panel of experts on hand.

"A lot of times, small-business owners and entrepreneurs don't have time to seek out information that can help them out," says Adam Edge, Suwanee's downtown and business development manager. "This seminar offers a one-stop forum where they can get that critical information and connect with mentors."

While the seminar is free, advanced registration is required. Register on the Events page at gwinnettchamber.org.

'Plot' a healthier, fresher 2016

Applications for plots at Suwanee's Harvest Farm organic community garden are now being accepted for 2016. Applications from returning gardeners only are due by Friday, October 16.

Garden plots are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis with priority given to City residents, property owners, and taxpayers as well as returning gardeners.

Plots are available in three different sizes, with the annual fee ranging from $50-$100. City of Suwanee residents/taxpayers receive a 25 percent discount.

Annual fees include use of a raised bed, utilities, basic community tools, social and educational events, and, when available, compost. Gardeners incur personal expenses for items such as seeds, plants, amendments, stakes, and trellises.

Art where it matters most

Photo by Bill Mahan

Suwanee's new public art master plan, adopted by City Council at its September 22 meeting, calls not for placing public art everywhere, but rather for putting art where it matters most. The plan, developed over the past six months in consultation with Todd Bressi, an independent art consultant from Philadelphia, and Meridith McKinley, a public art planning and programming professional in St. Louis, suggests that Suwanee focus its efforts on public art that is "engaging, fun, memorable, and distinctive;" helps strengthen community connections; and that, in many cases, is temporary.

The master plan suggests two themes for future projects: art + play and art + identity/City image.

Art + play projects are creative, likely pedestrian-focused, and encourage community engagement. "Think about art that you can interact with," says Bressi, "things that are related to sound and light, things that are kinetic or related to STEM education. People will see fun and interesting things, things that they've not necessarily seen before or are expecting."

Art + identity projects promote a sense of arrival within Suwanee in general or perhaps to the downtown district. Such projects could strengthen the physical connections between areas of the City. "Art can create scale, break down distances, and make those connections more interesting for people," notes Bressi.

Overall, the plan suggests a variety of art projects that could be rolled out over the next decade as opportunities arise and funding becomes available. The plan emphasizes strategic use of temporary art pieces, which Bressi notes, may be more cost effective, allow for experimentation, and keep things fresh and different.

Municipal election on Nov. 3

The City of Suwanee will hold a general municipal election Tuesday, November 3. Two City Council posts – Post 1 and Post 2 – will be on the ballot. Qualifying candidates for those positions are:

Post 1
Doug Ireland (incumbent)
Sara Kleinfeld

Post 2
Dick Goodman (incumbent)
Stephan B. Caldwell

The mayor's position also is up for election, but as only one candidate – current mayor Jimmy Burnette – qualified for the position, it will not be on the ballot.

Early voting will be available at City Hall from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays October 12-30. Voting on November 3 will be from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at City Hall.

Poll officials are needed for early voting as well as election day.

Proposed project to extend Town Center

A preliminary concept drawing, provided by Terwilliger-Pappas, of the proposed mixed-use residential/retail project at Chicago Avenue and Buford Highway.

The City of Suwanee Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has taken initial steps to enter a public-private partnership with developer Terwilliger-Pappas that will create a mixed-use multifamily/retail building at Chicago Street and Buford Highway adjacent to Town Center. The proposed development, on a 3.5-acre tract currently owned by the DDA, is expected to feature a five-story structure with 10,000 square feet of street-level commercial/retail/restaurant space and 235 high-end apartments. The project also is expected to include a parking garage around which the mixed-use structure will be built.

"The City of Suwanee DDA is pursuing an exciting public-private partnership that will extend our incredible Town Center," says Mayor Jimmy Burnette. "This project would bring more residents, commercial opportunities, and energy to Town Center's vibrant 'live, work, play' lifestyle. This could be a win for all of us."

The Suwanee DDA and Terwilliger-Pappas have executed a letter of intent and are currently negotiating details on the $46 million project. Under the terms of the letter of intent, Suwanee's DDA would receive $600,000 in cash for the property plus ownership, at no additional cost, of the 10,000 square feet of commercial/retail space. The approximately 3.5-acre property being purchased by Terwilliger-Pappas was acquired by the City of Suwanee over time for $497,000.

The primarily one- and two-bedroom residences that are part of the project are expected to appeal to professional millennials and empty-nesters and would further the City's efforts to be a lifelong community. "We fully expect that these apartments will set the bar for quality in Gwinnett County," says Suwanee's Downtown Manager Adam Edge, "and that rental rates will exceed those of any similar existing Gwinnett County development. Studies have shown that Town Center has some of the highest property values in the county. We believe that this project will not just contribute to, but enhance, Town Center's value."

Get more information.

Millage rate proposed to remain the same

The City of Suwanee has proposed a millage rate of 4.93 mills, the same rate used by the City over the past three years. That rate, however, is higher than the calculated rollback rate of 4.769 mills – this is the rate that would be expected to generate the same total revenue as the previous year.

City Council is expected to adopt a fiscal year 2016 millage rate at its August 25 meeting. Because the proposed rate is anticipated to generate a 3.38 percent increase in property tax revenues, due to rising property values, the City of Suwanee will hold three public hearings on this increase.

Millage rate public hearings will be in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall at:

  • 5:30 p.m. Thursday, August 13
  • noon Tuesday, August 25
  • 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 25

The proposed 4.93 millage rate will result in a tax increase of approximately $16.10 for a home with a fair market value of $250,000 and an increase of $35.42 for a nonresidential property with a fair market value of $550,000.

Let's play

As part of its growing public art program, the City of Suwanee has installed a temporary interactive public art experience – a street piano – at Town Center Park. The donated piano, painted with a colorful tree theme by the North Gwinnett Arts Association, is located at the back of the park (along Town Center Avenue close to Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road) in the area where the Farmers Market is held each Saturday.

Area residents are invited to view and especially play the piano and then post photos or video to the City of Suwanee's Facebook and/or Instagram pages. Use the hashtag #letsplaysuwanee.

The project was coordinated by Suwanee's Public Art Commission, a six-member board appointed by City Council that manages Suwanee's public art initiatives, including SculpTour and working with developers to include public art as part of their new construction projects. Over the past seven years, more than 60 temporary artworks and more than 20 permanent pieces have been displayed throughout Suwanee.

Suwanee's street piano project is inspired by British artist Luke Jerram's Play Me, I'm Yours program, through which more than 1,450 pianos have been installed in public places in 46 cities across the globe.

City wins two national awards
thanks to resident ratings

Multi-winner Business Services Director Jessica Roth, on the left, holds Voice of the People Awards previously won by the City of Suwanee.

The City of Suwanee has been named a winner of two Voice of the People Awards for Excellence – in community engagement as well as recreation and wellness – by the International City/County Management Association and National Research Center. Suwanee is the lone community among 21 jurisdictions being recognized nationally to win multiple awards.

Voice of the People awards are the only awards given in local government based on community opinion. Ratings by residents on customized National Citizen Surveys determine local government nominees in a variety of service and community characteristic categories. Suwanee administered its most recent National Citizen Survey in November. In survey results, released in March, Suwanee residents rated the City higher than other participating communities across the nation on eight questions, and Suwanee scored among the top 10 communities nationally in 27 percent of the questions.

Suwanee residents reported extremely high levels of satisfaction, compared to the more than 300 other participating jurisdictions, with community engagement, recreation and wellness, built environment, and economy. The City also is a finalist for Voice of the People Awards for Excellence in the built environment and economy categories.

The City of Suwanee was ranked #1 compared to other benchmarked communities on questions that addressed:

  • City-sponsored events
  • job Suwanee government does welcoming citizen involvement
  • overall built environment
  • availability of affordable quality childcare
  • overall confidence in local government
  • generally acting in the best interest of the community
  • being honest
  • treating all residents fairly.

An America's pastime 'doubleheader'

The Atlanta Braves will bring Game on the Green to the big screen in Suwanee' s Town Center Park Saturday, August 1, as the home team travels to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 pm, but baseball-themed festivities start at 5 p.m.

The Braves will bring inflatables, the Heavy Hitters drum line, and Homer to Town Center Park. In addition, The Sandlot will be shown on a digital board beginning at 5 p.m.  This 1993 film is rated PG (for some language and kids chewing tobacco). In The Sandlot, through baseball, a group of boys finds friendship, adventure, and the courage to take on "the beast" on the other side of the fence.

The game, movie, and activities are free and open to the public. Bring friends, food, chairs, and blankets, but no alcohol may be brought into Town Center Park. Food and beverages, including beer and wine, may be purchased from Town Center merchants.

Food trucks return August 7

TGIFTF! Fridays are always good, but there's something extra special about Food Truck Fridays in Suwanee. Food trucks will roll back into Town Center Park Friday, August 7.

Dinner will be served from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Anticipated vendors include Blaxican, Bollywood Zing, Five Finger Philly, Freckled and Blue, Hail Caesar, King of Pops, Mac the Cheese, Rey's Cuban Café, Tracy's Tasties, Viet-Nomie's, and Wow!

JP Blues will perform beginning about 7 p.m. Described as an indie blues band, this power trio features the vocals and guitar work of John Pagano, who has been voted by TrueFire.com as one of "100 Guitarists You Should Know."

The Suwanee Youth Leaders class, comprised of about 50 high school students participating in the City's youth leadership experience, is organizing and managing this event. The students are organizing chalk art, arts and crafts, and an obstacle course as well as a raffle to benefit the Hilaire Foundation for Melanoma.

Big plans for Downtown Suwanee

TSW consultants working with the City of Suwanee to update the Downtown Suwanee Master Plan told participants in a recent email that the draft of the update "presents an exciting vision for new development, park space, street and greenway extensions, and more." Now, the planners and City of Suwanee are inviting residents to offer their input and "make sure [TSW and the City] got it right."

The draft of the updated Downtown Master Plan will be available for public review, questions, and comments at an open house from 4-8 p.m. Thursday, July 9, at City Hall, 330 Town Center Avenue. This is a drop-in event; no formal presentation will be made.

Previous Downtown Master Plan public meetings have included a March 5 kick-off and April 20 visioning workshop.

At the April workshop, planning consultants with TSW and Noell Consulting Group shared market analysis information and reviewed discussion topics while participants shared ideas and feedback related to parks and transportation as well as what kinds of uses and buildings might make for good additions to the Town Center and Old Town areas.

City begins FY2016 with $14.8 million budget

At its June 23 meeting, Suwanee City Council approved a $14.8 million operating budget for fiscal year 2016, which began July 1. This budget represents a 9.2% increase over the $13.6 million budget adopted by the City last year.

The adopted 2016 budget assumes that the City's millage rate will remain at its current level of 4.93 mills; no tax rate increases are anticipated. The millage rate is scheduled to be adopted by City Council in August.

Suwanee's $14,843,060 FY2016 budget includes $45,000 in continued funding for the City's downtown and public art master plans; three new positions and two position upgrades; a maximum 4% pay-for-performance salary increase for staff; and just over $763,000 for capital expenditures that include seven replacement vehicles for the police department and other personnel, two mowers and a chipper, and police dispatch console upgrades and other equipment. Health insurance expenses increased by 11 percent; the City will cover approximately two-thirds of that increase with employees picking up the rest.

The budget also includes Suwanee's annual debt payment for bonds used to construct City Hall and several parks. That payment in FY2016 will be about $1.6 million.

Broadway with a bang, bang

This year's Broadway in the Park production is coming in with a bang, bang. Suwanee Performing Arts will present a timeless tale ideal for the whole family when it performs Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on the Town Center stage Friday and Saturday, July 24 and 25. Performances begin at 7 p.m. each night.

Presented by a mostly high school cast, the story follows the adventures of eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts and his family as they travel about in their spectacular, remodeled old car. The family encounters the evil Baron Bomburst, a child-hating dictator who wants to steal Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for himself.

"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a fun story for all ages," says Director and Production Coordinator Patty Etherton. "No matter who you are, you're going to love this show."

A middle school cast will open each evening with The Finish Line, an original one-act musical whose story ends at the 1910 Grand Prix, which is where Chitty Chitty Bang Bang begins.

Admission is free, but reserved premium seating and "sitting room only" seating near the front of stage are available for a tax-deductible donation to Suwanee Performing Arts. Call 678-482-6333.

Soul Asylum to rock wing fest

Soul Asylum

The wings aren't the only things that will be flavorful at Suwanee's August Concert & Wing Festival on August 8. Soul Asylum will serve up a tangy musical performance, especially if you came of age during the late '80s/early '90s alternative rock/grunge era.

After forming in Minneapolis in 1981, Soul Asylum, known for its first two years as Loud Fast Rules, was a frontrunner of American college rock and garnered a reputation as the country's best live band. Mid-1980s audiences were struck, according to Soul Asylum's Wikipedia article, by "the band's onstage swagger, scruffy Midwestern appearance, and extremely loud, frenetic sound – mixing tuneful but unrestrained punk, hardcore 1970s rock, country, and self-effacing kitsch." The article goes on to quote an early reviewer's description of the band's sound as "some unholy mix of Kiss and Hank Williams thrown under the wheels of a runaway train."

Appropriately, "Runaway Train," from Soul Asylum's sixth album, Grave Dancers Union, released in 1992, became the band's biggest hit, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other hits include "Somebody to Shove," "Black Gold," and "Misery."

Suwanee's August Concert and Wing Festival will begin at 5 p.m. at Town Center Park. As headline performer, Soul Asylum will take the stage around 8 p.m.

Double-header weekend

The City of Suwanee will host two events the first weekend of June: Food Truck Friday on June 5 and a double-feature Movies Under the Stars on Saturday, June 6.

The tentative food truck line-up includes Atlanta Burger Truck, Bollywood Zing, Five Finger Philly, Pressed for Time, Freckled and Blue, Happy Belly, Linkz Express, On Tapa the World, Rey's Cuban Café, Wow!, and Yoli's Street Food. The musical line-up, presented by Town Center Music, features Jon Cole and Liz Brasher & Her Band. Food will be served from 5:30-9:30 p.m. with music starting about 7.

Two movies will be shown during the June 6 Movies Under the Stars event. The 7 p.m. movie, to be shown on a digital board, is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. This 2014 film starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner is rated PG for rude humor. "Alexander is funnier than one would expect," says Blake Goble of Consequence of Sound on RottenTomatoes.com. "In a weird way, it's full of refreshingly cranky, dorky goofing."

The third installment of the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay – Part 1, will be the second feature, shown on an inflatable big screen starting around 8:45 p.m. Jenifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, who fights to save a nation moved by her courage. The movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and some disturbing images and thematic material. Critic Richard Roeper declared the film "A solid lead-up to the finale [due out in November]."

Red, white, bluegrass & Bach

Suwanee's annual Memorial Weekend concert will feature bluegrass and classical performances this year as well as a musical salute to the troops.

The Red, White, Bluegrass & Bach concert will kick off the Memorial Day weekend on Friday, May 22, at Town Center Park. The event will open at 7 p.m. with the Silver Wings, the official demonstration parachute team out of Fort Benning, "dropping in" – weather permitting.

Darin and Brooke Aldridge

At 7:15 p.m. Main Street Symphony, an adult amateur orchestra associated with Huthmakers Violins, will stage a classical performance. 

Darin and Brooke Aldridge, a husband-wife duo and their band, will take the stage around 8:30. One of the hottest young acts in acoustic music, the Aldridges have received multiple nominations from the International Bluegrass Music Association, the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, and Inspirational Country Music Association. The band's website says: "There is a sweetness and a lightheartedness in their music with positive lyrics and the occasional sense of just plain fun."

Peace, Love & Arts in the Park

The North Gwinnett Arts Association (NGAA) is making bold, colorful promises about its May 16 Arts in the Park festival.

Clyde's on Fire

"It's going to be a wonderful day for folks to get out and see some things that inspire and educate them," says NGAA President Vickie Johnson.

Attendance at the annual festival, which will be take place from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Town Center Park, is free.

Arts in the Park will feature the work of about 50 juried artists, showcase onsite artist demos, encourage several create-it-yourself community art projects, and include music and food.

A chalk walk competition, open to elementary, middle, and high school students, will be from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. with winners announced at 4. Registration is available at suwaneeartsinthepark.com. In addition, professional street artists will create long-lasting 3D chalk drawings around Town Center Park.

Throughout the day, a DJ from Uptown Entertainment will provide music that fits the Peace, Love & Arts in the Park theme. Clyde's on Fire, an Asheville-based, female-fronted bluegrass band, will close out the festival with a live performance.

New SculpTour opens May 16

'Dancer XX' by Jack Howard-Potter

The 2015-17 Suwanee SculpTour, a walkable public art exhibit in and around Town Center, is bringing more – in some cases, a lot more – than ever before. The exhibit officially opens May 16 during the Arts in the Park festival.

  • This, Suwanee's fourth SculpTour exhibit, features more sculptures than ever: 17.
  • It includes more local artists: Six of the 15 artists represented are from Georgia; other artists are from Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and New York City.
  • Dancer XX, a 20-foot tall galvanized and powder-coated steel sculpture created by Jack Howard-Potter, is the single heaviest sculpture to ever be included in a SculpTour exhibit. Weighing in at 2,700 pounds, this kinetic sculpture of a male figure, who stands on one leg with his arms raised and holding a long piece of fabric, rotates with the wind.

The 2015-17 exhibit is weighty not only in poundage. While several pieces represent the forest canopy and sunflowers or a variety of animals – birds of prey, cows, horses, goats, and birds in flight – several pieces reflect the artists' perception of heavy topics. Some of the themes addressed include the pain of love, looking forward optimistically while absorbing losses of the past, unattainable success, notable attributes of friendship, parent-child relationships, the dichotomy of science and faith, and the concept of awareness. See a list of 2015-17 SculpTour artworks.

A walkable public art encounter, Suwanee SculpTour is a program of the Public Arts Commission. The new exhibit will be on display through March 2017.

Farmers Market opens May 2

The season of fresh produce, lovely flowers, and yummy baked goods returns to Suwanee when the City's Farmers Market opens at Town Center Park Saturday, May 2. The market is open 8 am-noon Saturdays through October 3.

"The Suwanee Farmers Market has a loyal customer and farmer base," notes Suwanee Events Manager Amy Doherty. "Our market is almost as much a social event as it is an opportunity to access locally grown produce and a variety of other items, such as salsa, honey, eggs and meat, seafood, and baked goods."

There is no Tuesday afternoon market in Suwanee this year.

Annual program puts Art on a Limb

Trees, flowers, and art are in bloom along the Suwanee Creek Greenway and in Suwanee parks. Throughout the month of May, those out enjoying nature in several of Suwanee's parks may also discover – and keep – art pieces.

Created by Suwanee area resident Tina Waltke, red clay hearts with warm, fuzzy Suwanee statements will be hidden daily (two pieces at a time) along the Suwanee Creek Greenway and at Sims Lake Park and White Street Park throughout the month of May. Suwanee's Art on a Limb program is an annual celebration of art and nature that allows those who find the trail treasures to keep them.

A sign language interpreter by day, Waltke is a chronic – perhaps even compulsive – craft-maker who doesn't like going to movie theaters because she can't work on crafts there. "I feel like I just have to do it," she says. "It's not a choice.

"I love the idea of Art on Limb," Waltke adds. "It's a sweet and giving concept, to give people something while also encouraging them to explore Suwanee's trails and parks."

Tail-wagging fun at Woofstock

Andy Grammer

Hips will be swaying and tails will be wagging Saturday, May 9, when Andy Grammer takes Suwanee's Town Center stage as musical headliner at Woofstock, Star 94's annual pet party in the park. Woofstock, which begins at noon, features canine Frisbee and dock-diving demonstrations, dog contests, food trucks and a beer garden, pet adoptions and vendors, and live music. Schedule of activities.

"Woofstock is a great event for our four-legged friends," says Events Manager Amy Doherty. "The dogs are well-behaved, and the demos a lot of fun to watch. This year, we're really excited about the quality of musical performers. Star 94 is bringing in Andy Grammer as the headliner. We've been bopping around City Hall to his 'Keep Your Head Up.'"

Grammer is best-known for his hits "Fine by Me" and "Keep Your Head Up," which went gold and platinum respectively, from his self-titled 2011 debut album. He's currently touring and promoting his sophomore album Magazines or Novels.

Four-legged attendees must be on a leash. No alcohol may be brought into Town Center Park, but food and beverages, including beer and wine, may be purchased from event vendors and Town Center merchants. Parking is available at Town Center and along Main Street.

Downtown visioning workshop April 20

Buford Highway Study

The City of Suwanee and TSW design consultants continue to work through the process of creating an update for the Downtown Master Plan.

About 80 people attended the public kick-off for the planning process on March 5. The City shared details about the Buford Highway reconstruction project, which is expected to get underway in 2016. This ongoing downtown project will include bike lanes, wide sidewalks, on-street parking, and installation of a traffic roundabout at Russell Street to provide an entryway to historic Old Town.

Next, residents are invited to participate in a visioning workshop to be held at City Hall at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 20.

"This workshop," says Planning and Inspections Director Josh Campbell, "offers an opportunity for participants to consider various land uses and development styles and make suggestions as to what kinds of uses might go where in downtown Suwanee."

After a brief presentation on an analysis of the Suwanee market and demographics, designers with TSW will draw in suggested developments on top of existing aerial photos of downtown Suwanee so that residents – and planners – can better visualize how certain development options will fit with existing uses.

Food trucks roll into Suwanee

Food trucks will roll into Town Center Park the first Friday of each month April-October (with the exception of July). Suwanee's first Food Truck Friday event of 2015 is on April 3.

Food will be served from 5:30-9:30 p.m. each month, with live musical performances beginning at 7 p.m.

"Town Center Music is coordinating our bands this year," says Events Manager Amy Doherty. "We're excited at the level of talent and variety of music that they'll bring to the community."

The bands performing in April are Sunset District, an indie-rock collective based in Atlanta, and Littlebrother, formerly the Jon Harkey Band, who lean toward smooth pop-rock with folk influences.

The tentative food truck line-up for April includes Atlanta Chamos Grill, Down the Bayou Cajun Cuisine, Freckled and Blue, Happy Belly, King of Pops, Mac the Cheese, Pressed for Time, On Tapa the World, Tasting Maine, Tracy's Tasties, and Yolis Street Food.

Resident rankings put Suwanee at top

At the end of 2014, the City of Suwanee participated in its fourth National Citizen Survey, a statistically valid survey managed by the National Research Center that gathers resident opinions across a range of community issues. As in previous years, Suwanee residents' ratings put the City of Suwanee at or near the top in a variety of areas as compared to other communities across the country.

In fact, residents rated Suwanee higher than other participating communities across the nation in eight categories. Across the 127 categories Suwanee residents were requested to rate, Suwanee scored in the top 10 in 27 percent of them.

"The National Citizen Survey remains an important tool for us to gauge citizen satisfaction," says Mayor Jimmy Burnette. "We always learn a little something about ourselves as a community through the survey, and it's good to know that the City of Suwanee continues to be headed in the right direction."

The City of Suwanee was ranked #1 compared to other benchmarked communities in the following areas:

  • City-sponsored events
  • job Suwanee government does welcoming citizen involvement
  • overall built environment
  • availability of affordable quality childcare
  • overall confidence in local government
  • generally acting in the best interest of the community
  • being honest
  • treating all residents fairly.

Read more about Suwanee's National Citizen Survey results.

Click on the image to enlarge a photo.

2015 Snap Suwanee winners

Suwanee appears fun, outdoorsy, artsy, and snowy in the dozen winning photographs that comprise the 2015 Snap Suwanee exhibit currently on display at City Hall.

Sixty entries were received for this year's annual community photo competition. The winning photographs will be on display until February 2016.

"Snap Suwanee has become one of the City's favorite community engagement projects," says Public Information Officer Lynne DeWilde. "It's always fun to see what strikes our photographers as noteworthy from year to year. This year's winning photos capture moments one doesn't see every day in Suwanee – from a hot air balloon in Town Center to snow to a paddleboarder on the Chattahoochee. They also capture those moments that are more ubiquitous, including folks interacting with public art and utilizing Suwanee parks as backdrops."

Enjoy a few 2015 Snap Suwanee winning photographs in this online slideshow, but stop by City Hall to see and appreciate all of the photos.

Cole Taylor

New event promises to be legen-dairy

The City of Suwanee is hosting a sharp new event this spring. Suwanee's Big Cheesy Festival on Saturday, April 18, will feature cooking demos as well as cheese and beverage pairings, on-site cheese sculpting, food trucks and other vendors offering cheese-related products (including grilled cheese doughnuts), an artisan market, human foosball tournament, and live musical performances, including headliner Cole Taylor, presented in cooperation with KICKS 101.5. This free event is from 2-10 p.m. at Town Center Park.

"We're excited to be offering this event, which allows us to really embrace our quirky cheesiness," says Events Manager Amy Doherty. "Who doesn't love food and music, and the human foosball games are going to be a blast. We hope everyone comes out, we promise it's going to be a 'gouda' time."

Sarah Kaufmann

Sarah Kaufmann, aka the Cheese Lady, will be on hand creating an oversized cheese carving. In addition, Choices to You will sponsor do-it-yourself cheese sculpting opportunities.

The human foosball tournament will have teams of six players (with up to two alternates allowed per team) vying for the title of "Big Cheese." Up to 16 teams may compete, and prizes will be awarded for first and second place as well as best costume/uniform and team name. Youth ages 8-17 as well as adults may play. The deadline to register is April 10; registration fee is $25/team.

Musical performances will kick off at 5 p.m. with headliner Cole Taylor, an up-and-coming country artist, taking the stage about 8:30 p.m. Taylor, a singer/songwriter who signed with Universal Music Publishing Group after being in Nashville just nine months, has a new extended play release, featuring "Break That Lonely" and penned Florida-Georgia Line's single "Sippin' on Fire."

Be part of our award-winning festival

The 2014 Suwanee Fest recently earned four Kaleidoscope Awards from the Southeast Festivals and Events Association (SFEA), including Best Festival. With exhibitor and entertainment applications now being accepted for the 2015 Suwanee Fest, artists and performance groups are invited to apply to be part of this multi-award-winning community festival.

Suwanee Fest will take place September 19 & 20 at Town Center Park. Exhibitor and entertainment applications are available at suwaneefest.com. The deadline for applications is June 1.

"Suwanee is a great festival because...you're going to get the really heavy traffic," said 2014 exhibitor Julie Wettlaufer of Designs by Jewel. "I just love the atmosphere of Suwanee Fest. It brings a really nice crowd."

In addition to naming Suwanee Fest the Best Festival in the "budget over $75,000" category, SFEA also awarded the festival for:

  • Best Volunteer – in recognition of Chair Janis Beavin's multiple years of service and for leading the festival as it transitioned from a one-day to two-day event.
  • Best Creative Idea – for hosting a Blast a Stormtrooper activity in place of what would have been an unused sponsor booth.
  • Best t-shirt – the Suwanee Fest t-shirt won a silver award in this category.

The awards were presented February 17 in Chattanooga during the Southeast Festivals and Events Association's annual conference. More than 100 entries were received from organizations in five states.

For the Love of Suwanee

Two messages that author and bottom-up community development guru Peter Kageyama hammers home in his book For the Love of Cities are that little things matter a lot and that creative, innovative, and engaged citizens are essential to producing vibrant, lovable communities. Kageyama will explore these topics and inspire residents to work together to make Suwanee even more loveable when he visits March 23-25.

Peter Kageyama

Kageyama's keynote presentation will be an interactive community workshop, offered from 2-5 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, at the George Pierce Park Community Center. All Suwanee residents and businesspeople are invited to attend this free workshop. Please RSVP to love@suwanee.com by March 17 if you plan to attend.

In addition to discussing what people love about Suwanee and strategies for how to increase citizens' emotional engagement with their community, Kageyama will challenge participants to come up with small, inexpensive ideas that will make Suwanee more lovable.

In his 2011 book, Kageyama outlines a city hierarchy, similar to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, that posits that once a community's "basic" needs of function (e.g., potholes are repaired expeditiously) and safety are met, citizens aspire to live in places that provide social interaction, are interesting and unique, and offer meaningfulness.

Designs on downtown

Photo by David Douglas

The City of Suwanee will officially kick off its second update to the Downtown Master Plan at a community meeting at City Hall at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 5. Originally adopted in 2002 and last updated in 2009, the Downtown Master Plan provided the foundation for development of Town Center.

This Downtown Master Plan update, which will include a market analysis, design charrette for targeted areas, and other opportunities for public input, is intended to determine the kinds of development that will be appropriate for downtown and to position the City to be eligible for grant funds related to transportation projects associated with future development.

"The original Downtown Master Plan," says Planning Director Josh Campbell, "was one of the biggest factors in transforming Suwanee into what it is today. Hopefully, this update will have similar transformative effects. As the economy is picking up, we anticipate significant development opportunities over the next several years. Downtown Suwanee is by no means a finished product, and we're looking forward to broadly programming additional pedestrian-oriented, mixed uses in the area while respecting the character of what we already have."

In addition to considering specific development opportunities in the downtown area, the plan will focus on transportation, open space, and connectivity. The area in the study covers Town Center and Old Town and includes the entire Downtown Development Authority area.

See a map of downtown area and additional information about the Downtown Master Plan update on the Community/Downtown Master Plan page.

Food, music, fun & more

A total of 48 events, including 19 runs/walks, six Food Truck Fridays, numerous traditional favorites, and several new events, are sprinkled throughout the City of Suwanee's 2015 event calendar.

New events include the Big Cheesy Festival on April 18, Chili Cook-Off on May 2, Melanoma Awareness event on May 31, and Alive! Expo on October 24.

Suwanee's very popular Food Truck Fridays are back the first Friday of the month April-October, with the exception of July. Also back are favorites such as Suwanee Beer Fest on March 14, Woofstock on May 9, Arts in the Park May 16, and Taste of Suwanee October 10.

Broadway in the Park returns to the Town Center stage July 24 and 25 with performances of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Suwanee Fest will be September 19 and 20.

Here are a few changes to the 2015 events calendar:

  • The Suwanee Farmers Market, which opens May 2, will be Saturdays only this year.
  • The Memorial Day weekend kick-off event is being reworked and tentatively will be rebranded as Red, White, Bluegrass & Bach.
  • All Movies under the Stars presentations – on June 6, July 18, and August 29 – will be double-features.

Ride along with one of Suwanee's finest

Suwanee's Citizens Police Academy allows residents a better understanding of the day-to-day functions of police officers as well as an opportunity to patrol Suwanee's streets alongside an officer. The next academy will be offered Monday evenings March 9-May 11. Classes will be from 6:30-9 p.m. at the Suwanee Police Training Center, 2966 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.

Notarized applications are due Friday, February 27.

The academy offers classroom training and hands-on experiences in crime scene processing, traffic stops, building searches, crime prevention, and narcotics identification and provides an understanding of the risks and responsibilities of officers. The program is designed to open and maintain communication between citizens and the police department.

Classes are free and open to the public, but space is limited and preference is given to Suwanee residents or those who work in the City of Suwanee. A criminal and driver history background is required for all applicants. For additional information, contact Theresa Miranda or call 770-904-7669.

Run 13.1 on 1/31

You can be a part of history in 2015: Georgia Fitness and the City of Suwanee are teaming together to host the first-ever Suwanee Gateway Half Marathon on Saturday, January 31.

"If you can run a 10K, you can run a half marathon," says Georgia Fitness Manager Jason Vance. "The more training you do," he adds, "the more confident you'll be."

At the same time, Vance believes that the Suwanee half is scheduled so that it will make a good training run for those preparing for a spring marathon.

The race will begin at 7:30 a.m. at Town Center Park. From there, the Peachtree Road Race-certified, 13.1-mile course will meander through Old Town, along Eva Kennedy to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, to Tench Road and eventually George Pierce Park and the Suwanee Creek Greenway to McGinnis Ferry Road, up and back along Northolt, and back along the Greenway to the finish at City Hall.

Registration is available at active.com. Runners will receive a finisher's medal and long-sleeved technical shirt. Race news, including a course map, is available at runsuwanee.com.

Race volunteers are needed as well. Email jasongvance@gmail.com to volunteer.

Farmers wanted

The season of fresh produce, lovely flowers, and yummy baked goods returns to Suwanee when the City's Farmers Market opens on Saturday, May 2. The market is in search of farmers, herb and flower growers, butchers, bakers, jams and soap makers, and others to participate in its 11th season.  Vendor applications are due March 30.

"The Suwanee Farmers Market has a loyal customer and farmer base," notes Suwanee Events Manager Amy Doherty. "Our market is almost as much a social event as it is an opportunity to access locally grown produce and a variety of other items, such as salsa, honey, eggs and meat, and baked goods."

The Suwanee Farmers Market does not accept arts and crafts, non-licensed products, or produce re-sold from other markets. See additional guidelines.

Vendors who have been part of the Suwanee Farmers Market for less than two years are required to attend the annual Farmers Market meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 30, at Suwanee City Hall, 330 Town Center Avenue. In addition, all farmers may be subject to facility inspections by the market manager.

The Suwanee Farmers Market will be open from 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, May 2-October 3, at Town Center Park. The City of Suwanee will not host Tuesday markets this year.

Put your 'designs' on Suwanee Fest

Your creativity + Suwanee Fest could = $500!

The winning creator of the 2015 Suwanee Fest theme logo, which will be used on official festival t-shirts and marketing posters, will receive $500. The theme for the 2015 festival, to be celebrated September 19 and 20, will be "For the love of Suwanee."

The competition is open to professional and amateur designers of all ages. Designs may be hand-drawn or computer-generated. Entries should be submitted in printed and electronic format. The deadline for submission is May 1. See guidelines for additional information and an entry form.

Suwanee Fest is the community's annual two-day fall celebration. The award-winning festival includes arts and crafts exhibitors, children's rides and activities, and on-stage entertainment. Last year, approximately 55,000 people attended the festival at Town Center Park. For more information, visit the Suwanee Fest website.

Google: Suwanee is 2014 eCity

Google has announced that the City of Suwanee is Georgia's 2014 eCity and one of the country's digital capitals. This designation from the global technology company recognizes Suwanee as having the strongest online business community in the state.

"We're thrilled," says Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette, "and if I could speak in emoticons, I'd add several of those to this statement. More seriously, I'm very proud of our connected, forward-thinking, and engaged community. Like many of our businesses, the City of Suwanee has worked hard to keep pace with electronic technology and the opportunities it presents, maintaining a dynamic website, having a strong social media presence, and, most recently, making our website mobile-friendly.

"We know that e-commerce is a big part of Suwanee's thriving economy and we welcome that, and we'll continue to embrace electronic and other technologies to further strengthen our economy and overall community."

To determine America's digital capitals, Google and IPSOS, an independent research firm, analyzed the online strength of local small businesses in cities across the country. Factors considered included whether small businesses had a website, used a blog, promoted themselves via social networks, sold goods directly  from their website, and had a mobile-friendly website.

"Clearly there is a growing entrepreneurial spirit in Suwanee, which should be embraced," says Brett Williams, Google's director of SMB marketing, Americas. "Businesses in Suwanee are turning to the internet to start and develop their own businesses and we hope Suwanee becomes an inspiration to other areas in the country."