Frank Herbert, American science-fiction author best known for the novel “Dune” and its five sequels, once said "There is no real ending. It's just the place where you stop the story." So it is we “stop the story” on 2019 in Forsyth County.
Here’s a rundown of some of the year’s top stories:
New fire chief named
Barry Head became the county’s fourth fire chief in January. Head, 43, began volunteering for the Forsyth County Fire Department at age of 18. He has served in various capacities within the department, most recently as interim fire chief, a position he was appointed to in 2018, following the retirement of Chief Danny Bowman. Head earlier served as division chief, field operations. He also served with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
County clamps down on rentals
After more than two years of debate among residents, in April, the Forsyth County Commission voted 3-2 to place greater restrictions on short-term rentals in neighborhoods zoned for residential.
The code does provide for operations lying within areas zoned for agriculture or agriculture-residential, lots generally much larger than those in residential areas. Still, even these operations must go through a zoning process to receive a conditional use permit.
The vote followed more than an hour of debate over an issue that has stalked officials for more than two years and divided property owners.
Forsyth County has about 250 properties operating as short-term rentals, a classification defined as residences leased to tenants for fewer than 30 days.
Within a month of the vote, two groups representing short-term renters filed suit against the county arguing that new zoning restrictions violate the rights of property owners.
Cumming City Center breaks ground
When summer rolled around, many people headed to Lake Lanier for all sorts of water activities. Others headed out of town on vacation. There was a group that worked tirelessly in the Georgia’s sweltering temperatures to break ground on the Cumming City Center project during a ceremony in August.
Seeing the City Center start to take shape has been one of his greatest joys since becoming mayor, said Troy Brumbalow.
“Establishing this facility has been not only my most prominent goal as mayor, but also my heart’s greatest desire, because I believe it will truly become a place where we can all come together to enjoy our community as neighbors and friends just like we used to during simpler time,” Brumbalow said.
The City Center is slated to open in 2021.
Once completed, the Center will provide sophisticated retail and restaurant facilities and a wide range of public amenities including walking trails, an outdoor amphitheater, picnic areas, and a “town green” area with a prominent water feature.
City improves fairgrounds
Another highlight of the summer of 2019 for the city of Cumming was the installation of the Cumming Fairgrounds’ new pedestrian sky bridge across Castleberry Road. The foot bridge is completely ADA-compliant and the ramp allows patrons to safely cross the busy highway while also greatly reducing traffic congestion in this area during major Fairgrounds’ events, like the Cumming Fair in October.
The construction projects took place on either side of Castleberry, until September when part of the road was closed in preparation for the bridge.
Weighing almost 90,000 lbs., the bridge was lifted by two huge cranes and set in place and bolted down. Once secured, concrete was poured, electric lines were run and landscaping was installed.
A big, colorful mural now provides an artistic touch to the cement wall surrounding the fairgrounds, courtesy of dedicated volunteer artists who weren’t put off by the heat, humidity and traffic.
Animal shelter earns award
Ending the year on a purr-fectly grand note, was the award-winning Forsyth County Animal Shelter being designated an “Emerging Gold Standard Shelter” for the state in September.
The Georgia Pet Coalition and the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, recognized Cindy Iacopella, Forsyth County Animal Shelter manager and the shelter staff for the work done on behalf of animals in the county.
“It was a great opportunity to discuss big-picture issues affecting animals in Georgia and local issues,” Iacopella said.
The Coalition and Humane Society wanted to highlight the achievements of Forsyth County and its support from the commissioners, Iacopella said.
Included in the accomplishments were the reduction of euthanasia, the implementation of progressive programs, SPLOST funding for a mobile spay/neuter unit, partnerships with other agencies for unwanted pets and Pups With a Purpose, a partnership with the Sheriff’s Office in which inmates work with shelter dogs.
“There’s so much support from the commissioners,” Iacopella said. “It’s great. They’re all animal lovers.”
Northside makes way for growth
Forsyth County took care of the well-being of its humans in 2019, with Northside Hospital Forsyth planning ahead for the next decade. Anticipating a population growth, Northside Hospital Forsyth filed a Certificate of Need application with the state to convert 16 existing rooms at Northside Hospital Forsyth to inpatient beds to be used for obstetrical patients in the hospital’s Women’s Center in November. The beds are needed to help Northside Forsyth meet patient demand in 2024, according to the application. The addition will bring the hospital’s number of obstetrical beds from 16 to 32 and the hospital-wide inpatient bed count from 304 to 320. A decision on the project is expected in March. Over 3,000 babies were born at Northside Hospital Forsyth last year.
The hospital also opened six new operating rooms in the hospital’s Center for Advanced Surgical Technology and expanded pre-op and PACU space in November. The new operating rooms support robotics, neuro and orthopedics/spine surgeries. More than 400 surgeries have taken place in the new ORs to date and surgeons have expressed that the new space exceeds their expectations. The hospital now has 24 ORs. More than 14,400 surgeries were performed at Northside Hospital Forsyth in 2018.
Cumming adds to landscape
The new City of Cumming water tower off Ga. 400 went into operation this year. The message "Cumming Home" is painted on the basin in red and black lettering.
The project included installation of a water pipeline along Castleberry Road, Hutchinson Road and Deputy Bill Cantrell Memorial Road. The new tower is double the capacity of its predecessor with a 2-million gallon tank. It was approved by the City Council in 2018 and constructed by John D. Stephens Inc. for a $7.5 million bid.
Miss Georgia pays visits
In a plot twist of sorts, Forsyth County has a connection to the 2020 Miss America competition after Victoria Hill made two appearances here as she campaigned for foster children across the state.
Hill was crowned Miss Georgia in June.
The Canton native performed in Foster the Cause, a red-carpet event in September at the Polo Golf & Country Club. The evening included a formal chef dinner and musical entertainment featuring Miss Georgia performing Broadway and classical numbers.
Foster the Cause, was the initiative of Forsyth County residents Wayne and Sally Richards and Cindy and John Moon who hosted the benefit.
Foster the Cause is designed to raise funds for two local homes that provide housing, guidance and support to foster children: Bald Ridge Lodge for boys in Cumming and North Georgia Angel House for girls in Canton.
Hill returned in September to share details of her campaign with the Lanier Forsyth Rotary Club.
Her platform, “Flip the Script on Foster Care,” has set three main goals that include raising awareness of the need of the Georgia foster care system, engaging businesses and organizations to help children in foster care and encouraging mentorship for the young adults aging out of the system.