County by county news for Thursday

Tax digest estimate shows 3.9 percent decline

Early estimates for Cobb County’s 2012 tax digest show a 3.9 percent decline compared to last year, according to the county’s tax assessor. The tax digest, made up primarily of the value of homes and commercial properties, is used to by county officials to estimate revenue and determine budgets.

Despite the decline, which equates to about $8.3 million, the county can absorb the drop because of a surplus and set-aside funds for fuel costs, said finance director Jim Pherson. Cobb had already factored a 2.5 percent decline in its current budget Cobb’s final digest will be approved in June. Janel Davis

Cobb Students win scholarships

Several Cobb County students won Achievement Scholarship awards for black Americans, and will receive $2,500 from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Winners were: Emma I. Edoga, of South Cobb High School; Oluwatobi J. Akindoju and Amari J. El-Amin, of Wheeler High; Jonathan O. Ebhogiaye and Kamaria A. Laing, of George Walton Comprehensive High; Nicole M. Mwaura, of Hillgrove High; Brandon J. Walker, of Campbell High. Another student, Avery W. Brown, of Wheeler High, won a corporate-sponsored Achievement Scholarship -- the UPS Foundation Scholarship. Ty Tagami

Helicopter rides will benefit museum

The Marietta Museum of History will offer helicopter rides and a chance to look at eight aircraft at the museum’s aviation wing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, South Cobb Drive and Atlanta Road. Rides are $35 and proceeds will benefit the air museum. Museum CEO and founder Dan Cox said the museum is not oozing with cash, but is holding its own financially.

Tucker McQueen for the AJC

Cobb to mark National Library Week

Cobb County public libraries will celebrate National Library Week, April 8-14, with a variety of events at branches throughout the county.

An introduction to eReaders and eBooks class is set for 2 p.m. Monday at the Central Library in Marietta. Kennesaw State University curators will discuss women’s roles in World War II on Wednesday, and an art workshop for tweens is set for Thursday at the Gritters Library in Marietta.

For a complete calendar of events: www.cobbcat.org/national-library-week Janel Davis

Austell to build playground, pavilion

The Austell City Council voted Monday to replace the sand volleyball court at Collar Park with a playground and pavilion.

The project will be funded from $39,649 in Community Development Block Grant funds, said Jim Graham, director of the city’s parks and community development departments.

Carolyn Cunningham for the AJC

Sunrise service at Kennesaw Mountain

An annual Easter sunrise service will start 7 a.m. Sunday at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in front of the park visitor center off Old Highway 41. The Rev. Dr. James Speed, retired First Presbyterian Church Marietta pastor, will lead the non-denominational service sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Marietta and the Rotary Club of Marietta. Visitors can bring chairs. Tucker McQueen for the AJC

GWINNETT

Norcross to expand park surveillance program

Norcross has announced plans to expand its “Police and Citizens Together” (P.A.C.T.) surveillance program into local parks.

Traditionally a neighborhood watch effort, P.A.C.T. will also starting focusing on vandalism in public spaces. The city said there will also be increased police camera surveillance and foot patrol by police and the Public Works staff.

To report any activity considered suspicious or dangerous, call Norcross police at 770-448-2111 or stop by the police department at City Hall at 65 Lawrenceville Street. Joel Anderson

Station to celebrate 4th birthday in Suwanee

Atlanta’s Greatest Hits radio station 106.7 plans to celebrate its fourth birthday in Suwanee’s Town Center Park on April 14.

The festivities will start at noon and will include a free listener appreciation concert performance at 5:30 p.m. by Yacht Rock Revue, the self-proclaimed, “#1 Yacht Rock Band in the Universe.”

The event will feature food, vendor booths, giveaways, and an area for children with inflatable bouncy houses, games, prizes, and more. Joel Anderson

Buford artists out and about

Buford’s 6th Annual Plein Air Festival is gearing up for the weekend of April 13 -14  hosted by the Tannery Row Artist Colony and featuring artists from around the southeast. Artists are invited to participate in the outdoor painting event as well as submit works of art for the juried exhibit. Applications to submit for judging are available at www.tanneryrowartistcolony.com. Artwork must be delivered no later than April 10. Questions: call Deb Weiser at 941-380-2989, or Sabrina Bland at 404-729-1203. Karen Huppertz for the AJC

Norcross refurbishes bikes on Saturday

Saturday is Norcross’ Re-Cycle Bicycle Drive, part of the Safe Routes to School Task Force’s Earn-a-Bike program. Students and volunteers will refurbished donated used and new bikes, parts and accessories for students to ride to school. Bikes can be donated between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the city’s former public works facility at 168 Wingo St. Contact sustainablenorcross@gmail.com for information. Michael Alpert for the AJC

Deal to throw first pitch at Norcross High

Gov. Nathan Deal is soon to be pitching, rather than politicking. He’s scheduled to throw out the first ball at the Norcross High School baseball game on April 16.

He’ll do that in recognition of the school’s scholar athlete baseball player, Chris Raasch. Nancy Badertscher

Aurora serves Spanish language comedy

Aurora Theatre will continue its Harvel Lab Series with a Spanish language production of El Insólito Caso de Miss Piña Colada (The Preposterous Case of Miss Piña Colada).

The show, a comedy about a widow “trying to keep up appearances in the midst of diminishing fortunes,” will run from April 12 through April 29. Tickets are $15.

Information: 678-226-6222 or www.auroratheatre.com. Joel Anderson

NORTHSIDE

Sandy Springs council quashes first veto

Sandy Springs saw its first mayoral veto in its six-year existence Tuesday when Mayor Eva Galambos quashed a move by the City Council to spend $17,146 to add part-time arborist/landscape architect positions to the Community Development work staff.

The mayor characterized the March 20 action as “micromanagement,” and said the City Council bypassed the city manager in its drive to improve the permitting process for new construction.

It was all for naught, though. Minutes later, council members voted 5-1 to override the veto. Patrick Fox

Fire marshal to give preparedness program

The Milton Emergency Manager and Fire Marshal will host a free emergency preparedness program at its Crabapple Community Association meeting on Wednesday .

The program begins at 6 p.m. at Alpharetta’s Crabapple Government Center at 12625 Broadwell Road.

Residents will learn about how make themselves and their families disaster resilient. They will get a better understanding of the city’s role during disasters, existing school plans and preparedness efforts and standard operations for the American Red Cross. Andria Simmons

Free skin cancer screenings in May

With summer right around the corner, Northside Hospital will offer free skin cancer screenings next month.

Medical staff will conduct screenings in a private setting on May 3 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Northside Hospital-Forsyth Cancer Center at 1100 Northside Forsyth Drive, Suite 140, in Cumming. Screenings will also be held May 16 at Northside Hospital Cancer Center at 1000 Johnson Ferry Road in Atlanta.

Appointments are required. To register, call 404-845-5555 and press 0. Misty Williams

Johns Creek Symphony concert April 14

The Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra will present its final concert of the season, “An Evening with Oscar & Tony!” at 8 p.m. April 14 at the Theater at Johns Creek High School, 5575 State Bridge Road.

The program will feature selections from Hollywood films that have won Academy Awards and Broadway shows that have won Tony Awards.

Music from “Les Miserable,” “The Producers,” “Oklahoma” and The Sting are a few of the featured works. Tickets -- $30 for adults, $23.50 for seniors and $16.50 for students -- may be purchased at www.johnscreeksymphony.org.

Information: 678-748-5802 or email info@johnscreeksymphony.org. Patrick Fox

Verizon workers host recycling event

Verizon Wireless employees are hosting a recycling rally April 5 at the company’s south area headquarters at One Verizon Place in Alpharetta.

They are inviting city residents to bring unwanted electronics, televisions, aluminum cans, glass and plastics to the site between 7:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Company officials said the rally is an effort by employees to reduce their carbon footprint and encourage others to do the same. Patrick Fox

ATLANTA

Two meetings slated for schools’ closing

Two community meetings will be held at Atlanta’s D.H. Stanton Elementary and Towns Elementary to discuss the recommendation to close these schools at the end of the school year. The meetings will be held at the respective schools on Thursday and Monday at 6:30 p.m. Parents and community members can also submit feedback by emailing apsredistricting@atlantapublicschools.us. The Atlanta school board is expected to vote on the redistricting plan Tuesday. Jaime Sarrrio

Woman collects her $250,000 winnings

An Atlanta woman has come forward to collect her $250,000 prize from last Friday’s record-breaking $656 million Mega Millions jackpot. Tarenthia Geer matched the first five numbers in the drawing. Geer bought her winning ticket at Kroger, 3030 Headland Drive. She’s one of six Georgia Lottery players to each win a $250,000 prize. Other $250,000 winning tickets were sold in Marietta, Athens, Sandersville, Waco and Ellabell. Fran Jeffries

Moore to speak at business breakfast

Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia A. Moore will be the guest speaker at the Buckhead Business Association’s weekly breakfast meeting on April 19. The breakfast will be at 7:30 a.m. at the City Club of Buckhead on the 18th floor of the Atlanta Financial Center, 3343 Peachtree Road.

Information: http://www.buckheadbusiness.org or by phone at 404-467-7607. Jeremiah McWilliams

Laity conference at Morehouse next week

The 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. College of Ministers and Laity will be April 9-12 on the Morehouse College campus. Speakers will include author Michelle Alexander; the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedoms, and Mark E. Weston. Most events are free, and open to the public. The event will be in Morehouse College’s MLK Chapel, 830 Westview Drive, Atlanta. Information: www.mlkchapel.org. Laurie Hoffman

DEKALB

County official pleads guilty to extortion

A DeKalb County official pleaded guilty to extortion in federal court in Atlanta Wednesday.

Fidelis Ogbu, 59, an engineering supervisor in the county public works department, admitted to a “pay to play” scheme in which he demanded a bribe for a contractor to complete a project and to get future work, according to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

The contractor, who was working as a federal informant, paid Ogbu $18,300 to secure the project, Yates said.

Ogbu now faces up to 20 years in prison although federal sentencing guidelines could substantially reduce his sentence.

No sentencing date has been set. Steve Visser

Radiation clinic settles false claims probe

A DeKalb County radiation practice and its affiliates have agreed to pay a $3.8 million settlement to resolve a false claims investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.

Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia had been accused of over-billing Medicare for treatments provided to prostate cancer patients.

The settlement resolves claims filed by two whistle-blowers who once worked for the company -- a doctor, Rebecca Tarlton, and a physicist, Jeffrey Wertz.

“This settlement demonstrates our office’s continued commitment to stop Medicare fraud,” U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said.

Anthony Cochran, a lawyer for the clinic, said the company’s physicians cooperated fully during the investigation and denied any wrongdoing.

Bill Rankin

County to buy six cars for police

The DeKalb County Commission recently approved spending $159,000 on six Chevrolet Caprice cars as test models for its new police department fleet.

The department is also reviewing Ford Interceptors for possible replacement of its current fleet.

The decision on which car will become the new patrol vehicles is expected later this year. April Hunt

County accepts land for water station

DeKalb County recently accepted a land donation from the county’s school district, to be used for a water booster pump station.

The .33 acres on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, at the former site of Chamblee Middle School, will house the upgraded station.

It is a replacement for a similar facility on North Shallowford Road.

There is no cost to the county or school district for the donation. April Hunt

County adds Grady to new care program

DeKalb County recently added Grady Memorial Hospital to a care program designed to reduce repeat visits to hospitals after being discharged.

The county partners in the Care Understanding program with DeKalb Medical Center’s two campuses, Emory Hospital Midtown, Atlanta Medical Center and Piedmont Hospital.

Under the program, a grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission pays for visiting nurses to help patients aged 60 or older who discharged from those facilities learn how to handle their treatment needs at home. April Hunt

SOUTHSIDE

Teen faces vehicular homicide charge

Vehicular homicide charges have been filed against the teenage driver who police said caused a crash in south Fulton County last month that killed Sandtown Middle School teacher Shireen Haynes. The 16-year-old girl, whose name has not been released due to her age, was initially charged with failure to maintain lane and driving on a restricted license and suspended registration.

The girl’s mother, Syreeta Collins, was charged with allowing an unauthorized driver to operate a vehicle. An additional charge of reckless conduct was lodged against the mother. Mike Morris

Firm’s performance records sought

Fulton’s Purchasing department is looking for archived performance records on a contractor involved in building the Palmetto Neighborhood Senior Center, an early 2000s project fraught with leaky roofs and change orders. The commission is still holding off on letting C.D. Moody Construction Company manage building the Southeast Atlanta Library.

The panel did approve a Moody contract -- a joint venture with Holder Construction Group -- to manage renovation of the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Johnny Edwards

Police comb stores for synthetic marijuana

Police in Fayette County visited local convenience stores last week looking for any still selling synthetic marijuana, known as “Spice.”

Detective Mike Whitlow of the Fayetteville Police Department said officers found the substance at only one of the 13 stores they searched. The packets were confiscated and the owner was warned to stop all sales.

The sweep came the day after Gov. Nathan Deal signed “Chase’s Law,” named for a Fayette teenager who died March 4, that closes a legal loophole and bans all forms of synthetic marijuana. Jill Howard Church for the AJC

Peachtree City egg hunt on Saturday

Peachtree City will host an Easter Egg Hunt Saturday at 10:30 a.m. for children ages 1-11.

Co-sponsored by the Optimists and the Peachtree City Fire Department, the free event will be held at Shakerag Knoll at 191 McIntosh Trail near the amphitheater.

Registration is 9:30-10:30 a.m. Additional activities including games, a moonwalk, fire/rescue vehicles and a visit from the Easter Bunny will continue until noon.

Visitors are asked not to bring dogs. Jill Howard Church for the AJC

Fulton to hold Citizens Police Academy

The Fulton County Police Department has 16 slots for this year’s Citizen Police Academy and has started taking applications.

The 11-week program runs Aug. 30 to Nov. 8, with sessions on Thursday evenings from 7 to 10 p.m. at various police facilities. The academy will cover such topics as department history and traffic enforcement, with live fire demonstrations.

It’s open to unincorporated south Fulton residents, business managers, business owners and employees who are at least 18 years old with no felony convictions.

Applications: 404-346-7940 or fultonpolice.org.

Johnny Edwards

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