(ATLANTA, July 11, 2012) — Each year, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) recognizes local governments for their innovation and creative efforts to make the Atlanta region a better place. Through its CREATE Community Local Government Awards program, ARC also gives all 78 local governments in the 10-county area the opportunity to exchange ideas and help each other succeed. ARC recognized the 2012 recipients at a ceremony yesterday.
“If our hard-working local governments weren’t always looking for innovative ways to solve problems and create new opportunities for improvement, the Atlanta region would be just another metropolitan area,” said Doug Hooker, ARC Executive Director. “But because of their efforts, our region is a place that continues to grow, evolve and improve itself. It’s no coincidence that metro Atlanta was one of the fastest growing regions in the nation during the last decade.”
In an effort to share best practices, the awards ceremony included a panel of city managers that discussed how they find fresh ideas, get public input on those ideas, hire the right people, save money and conduct other critical functions of local government. The panel was titled “Fostering a Culture of Innovation in Local Government.” It included Warren Hutmacher of the City of Dunwoody, Iris Jessie of the City of Riverdale, and Peggy Merriss of the City of Decatur.
The CREATE awards recognize several areas of achievement: Community Involvement & Collaboration (City of Decatur), Regional Prosperity & Economic Development (City of Snellville), Environmental Sustainability (Cobb County), Application & Innovation in Technology (City of Marietta) and Educational Excellence (Henry County). ARC’s 2011 CREATE Community winners are:
Community Involvement & Collaboration
AWARD WINNER – City of Decatur, Decatur MLK Service Project
Senior citizens are sometimes forced from their aging homes because they can’t afford to maintain them. In 2003, the City of Decatur organized more than 100 volunteers for the first Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Project, repairing homes for low-income seniors. In January 2012, 1,300 volunteers completed substantial repairs on 22 houses and major yard work on 25. The project improves living conditions for seniors by painting, installing ramps, bathroom and kitchen fixtures and weatherization, and by replacing rotten floors, old furnaces and water heaters.
The project brings together hundreds of residents each year, along with nonprofit organizations and local experts. The City of Decatur serves as the leader and organizer, handles permitting and ensures that repairs meet code. Volunteers assess the properties and organize labor and food for three days. In 2012, 7,628 volunteer hours were contributed, $40,000 was raised in in-kind contributions and, most importantly, 47 homeowners received needed assistance.
Contact: Lyn Menne
HONORABLE MENTION – Fulton County Cooperative Extension: Fulton Fresh Mobile Farmers Market Program
This program was established to address health disparities and improve nutrition education in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of illness and insufficient access to grocery stores with fresh food. It is being recognized today as an innovative and collaborative approach to providing fresh produce to communities and education about the importance of healthy eating and exercise.
Contact: Menia Chester
Regional Prosperity & Economic Development
AWARD WINNER – South Gwinnett High School Entrepreneurship Alliance
Entrepreneurial education is gaining traction in schools around the country. However, the program at South Gwinnett High School distinguishes itself by its innovative partnership with the City of Snellville, giving students access to city leadership, the local business community and regional organizations like the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
The City arranges for classroom speakers, arranges field trips and recruits a Community Investor Panel that hears business plans from the 50 students and provides start-up funding so a few of the students can continue making their dream a reality in their local community. So, the program not only teaches students at South Gwinnett how to develop a business plan and start their own business, but it invests in budding businesses in the community to help support the future economy of Snellville and Gwinnett County.
In its first year, 24 student business licenses were issued by the City and nine student businesses received $2,500 each in start-up funding from the local business community.
Contact: Eric Van Otteren
AWARD WINNER – Cobb County, PEACH Roads
A first of its kind in Georgia, the PEACH (Preserving Environment And Community Heritage) Roads program was adopted by Cobb County in 2010 to help integrate sustainability principles into transportation projects. Based on New York’s GreenLITES program, PEACH Roads evaluates the design and operations proposals for any project meeting a $100,000 threshold and awards points based on project siting, water quality, use of sustainable materials, fuel/energy savings, impacts on air quality and innovation.
Cobb County partnered with the Georgia DOT to develop the program with the thought that it could eventually be adopted statewide. Since launching PEACH Roads, Cobb DOT has reviewed 28 project designs, finding that 21 scored enough points to warrant one of the program’s four certifications. And, the PEACH Roads Advisory Committee, in coordination with GDOT, revised the project design manual based on issues raised during the first five months.
Contact: Laraine Vance, Cobb DOT
HONORABLE MENTION – DeKalb County Renewable Energy Facility
Through this facility, methane gas is converted to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for vehicles and Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) for high-BTU gas for pipeline injection. The operation has the environmental equivalent of taking 30,000 cars off the road every year and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17,000 tons.
Contact: Tisa Smart Washington
HONORABLE MENTION – City of Alpharetta: North Park Retrofit Water Quality and Flood Control
This project consists of a variety of Best Management Practices to reduce the need for future dredging, reduce upstream erosion and increase the water quality of runoff before it enters the streams. The benefits for of this project are mostly achieved outside of the City, highlighting the importance of being a good neighbor and looking at a watershed-wide impact rather than stopping at City boundaries.
Contact: Amanda Day
Application & Innovation in Technology
AWARD WINNER – City of Marietta, Crisis Management Application
With a goal of becoming more efficient at dealing with emergency events, the City of Marietta and a consultant developed a GIS-based application that allows staff in the Crisis Management Center (CMC) and in the field to input and interact with data at the same time. With the ability to see all the data in real time, city leaders are able to comprehend the scope of the emergency and apply the closest and best resources for a quick, efficient response that could help save lives.
To date, the application has been performed well in both exercises and live scenarios, such as severe storms and citywide events (4th of July parade and festivities). The Marietta City School System has requested to participate by sending their school bus location data and school video feeds.
Contact: Ronnie Barrett
AWARD WINNER – Henry County, E2: Economics & Education Initiative
Most communities can readily identify the challenges they face. But few have come together to collaboratively find solutions to those challenges as the Henry County E2 Task Force did in 2010. The group’s priorities were to increase high school graduation rates, improve academic ranking in Georgia, secure a technical college, become a certified Work Ready community and improve school readiness.
By bringing together leaders from local government, civic groups and businesses, the community not only set goals, but, without consultants or funding, brought positive change to the community. Since 2010, the program has met its 10-year graduation benchmarks, established a Communities in Schools program and an Academy for Advanced Studies, met standardized test score benchmarks, is building Phase 1 of a new technical college, was designated a Work Ready community, has expanded its K-12 mentoring program, developed a summer reading program for kids through the Henry County Library and Parks & Rec, and has surveyed employers to identify work skills needed in the area.
Contact: Julie Hoover-Ernst