County by county news for Wednesday

Mother in jail after 5 kids found in squalor

A Cobb County mother of five remained in jail Monday following her arrest last week on second-degree cruelty to children charges. Andrea Massa Hernandez, of Smyrna, was arrested after police found roaches and dog feces throughout the apartment where she lived with five children and four puppies, according to the arrest warrant. The residence had no working utilities and rotting food, according to police. A father of one of the children had called police, Officer Michael Smith with Smyrna police said. The children, ages 3 months to 12 years, were placed in Division of Family and Children Services custody, Smith said. Alexis Stevens

Kennesaw accepts grant for walking trails

The Kennesaw City Council on Monday accepted a $91,340 grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to continue a walking and biking trail system that will link neighborhoods to downtown Kennesaw, Kennesaw State University and Kennesaw Mountain High School. The city will pay $22, 385 to complete the Whispering Lake-Church Trail, the third of four sections of the three-mile trail. Tucker McQueen for the AJC

Smith-Gilbert Gardens to open growing plots

Kennesaw’s Smith-Gilbert Gardens will open a place to grow vegetables at 10 a.m. Saturday to encourage families to garden together. The garden at 2382 Pine Mountain Road has paths winding through vegetable beds marked from A to Z, chime arbors, bubble pools and animal topiaries. The $150 fee for a plot includes 10 classes on vegetable gardening. Information: Tucker McQueen for the AJC

Hillgrove, Sprayberry schools earn praise

Hillgrove and Sprayberry high schools are among 26 schools to be named 2011 Georgia Schools of Excellence by the state Department of Education.

The program identifies two schools from each congressional district based on performance gains and test scores.

Both showed the greatest continuous gains in student achievement over the past three years, based on reading and mathematics performance on the Georgia High School Graduation Test. Ty Tagami

Austell to but $135,000 street sweeper

Austell City Council members voted unanimously Monday to buy a quicker street sweeper. The $135,000 purchase from Environmental Services will be funded by the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST.

Now the entire city can be cleaned in a week, including subdivision streets, Randy Bowens, the city’s director of the public works department, said.

The pre-owned 2009 unit also can clean parks after special events and storm drains, he added. Carolyn Cunningham for the AJC

Workshop on sexual abuse Sunday

Learn a Bible-based approach to breaking your silence and healing from child sexual abuse at a Time To Heal workshop Sunday in Marietta. The workshop is open to the public from 6 to 8 p.m. at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, in The Net Room 108, at 955 Johnson Ferry Road. Angela Williams, the founder of VOICE Today, will be guest speaker. To register: or call 678-578-4888. Andria Simmons


Homestead exemption deadline is April 1

April 1 is the deadline to apply for a homestead property tax exemption for the 2012 tax year in Gwinnett County.

The regular homestead exemption reduces the assessed value of your property. To qualify, you must own the property on Jan. 1 of the tax year. There is no age or income limit. The home must be your primary residence. Seniors age 65 and up also can get an exemption from school taxes, though income limits apply.

To apply online or for information: or e-mail or call 770-822-8800 for information. David Wickert for the AJC

Dacula council changes ordinance

Dacula’s city council voted to modernized its mixed-use development ordinance, paving the way for a “live, work, play” development on some 157 acres near Winder Highway and Ga. Highway 316. The council sought to deal with current real estate market conditions after discussions with consultants.

Chiefly, the revisions increase the maximum apartment density to 13 units per acre, require that developments be 25 percent open space, and allow 40 percent of remaining land to be residential. Michael Alpert for the AJC

Antique road show visits Norcross

Star appraiser, Selma Paul, of HGTV’s “If Walls Could Talk” will host The Norcross Antique Road Show this Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Norcross Welcome Center. Participants are encouraged to bring old treasures to learn their value. Doors open at noon. Karen Huppertz for the AJC

Shiloh High choir wins competition

The choir from Gwinnett County’s Shiloh High School was a top prize winner at The Metro Atlanta American Heart Association’s inaugural Atlanta Most Powerful Voices gospel competition. The choir won a $700, third place award and the audience’s People’s Choice Award. The contest was Feb. 25 at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church. Nancy Badertscher

Four teams in basketball semifinals

Norcross High, two-time defending champions of Class AAAAA, are among four Gwinnett girls basketball teams in today’s and Thursday’s semifinals. After eliminating previously unbeaten Parkview 63-46 in the quarterfinals, the Blue Devils (26-5) play McEachern at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Gwinnett Arena. North Gwinnett (26-3) faces Hillgrove in the other semifinal there at 7 p.m. Buford (24-7), three-time defending champions of AA, oppose Brooks County at the Macon Centreplex at 7 p.m. Thursday. Wesleyan (27-4), going for a fourth straight crown in Class A, takes on Taylor County there todayat 4 p.m. Michael Alpert for the AJC

County fashion show for brides on Saturday

Gwinnett County will sponsor a brunch and fashion show for brides-to-be from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse, 185 Crogan St., Lawrenceville. The cost is $12 per person. To register: 770-822-5450 or David Wickert


Pitts wants help from judges, police with jail

In an effort to continue lowering the jail population, Fulton Commissioner Robb Pitts wants the board to formally request that Fulton judges and the sheriff’s office use electronic monitoring as an alternative to incarceration. He also wants the county police department to write citations for minor crimes instead of locking people up, when practical. Resolutions calling for both measures will be before the commission Wednesday. Fulton remains under a federal consent order stemming from a lawsuit over dangerous conditions at the Rice Street jail. Johnny Edwards

New Boy Scout troop forms in Roswell

A new Boy Scout troop was recently created to serve boys in the Roswell area, particularly those who live east of Ga. 400. Troop 226 operates out of Bridge to Grace Church in Roswell. Boys interested in joining Troop 226 can attend meetings on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at the church. The church is 2.5 miles east of Ga. 400 on Holcomb Bridge Road between Fouts Road and Horseshoe Bend. The troop, working with the Roswell Rotary Club, recently planted 25 trees on Arbor Day. Nancy Badertscher

Alpharetta High’s fundraiser on Saturday

The Alpharetta High School Foundation hosts its third annual Black and Silver Celebration from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Alpharetta Marriott on Windward Parkway. Proceeds from the $50 per person event go to support the school in academics, athletics, art and community service. Highlights include live and silent auctions, food and music. A cash bar will be available, and all contributions are tax deductible.

Tickets: Nancy Badertscher

Resolution cites group that helps veterans

State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, will present a Senate Resolution 884 to members of “Bridging the Gap of Georgia” in recognition of their efforts to help homeless veterans on Thursday at Jarmin Law Group in Buckhead. “Bridging The Gap of Georgia” is a non-profit organization that helps veterans find employment and re-establish themselves as contributing members of society through a mentorship program. Andria Simmons

Time to change batteries in detectors

The Forsyth County Fire Department is urging residents to change the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as daylight saving time begins on Sunday. The department’s Public Safety Education Division provides smoke detectors free to senior citizens and residents in need. More info: 770-205-5699. Mark Woolsey for the AJC

Walk to School day at River Eaves school

Roswell’s River Eaves Elementary is hosting a Walk to School day today as part of Clean Commute Week. Students who walk to school will be joined by BAIR, The Clean Air Campaign’s Better Air Fair. The event is designed to stress to students how they can play a part in keeping the air clean by walking, biking, being in carpools and riding the school bus. Nancy Badertscher


Thrust Interactive moves to Inman Park

Thrust Interactive, an Atlanta-based third-party development studio for online and mobile games and apps, is moving its headquarters to Inman Park. The high-tech gaming company just moved into its new headquarters at 741 Edgewood Ave. The 4,500-square-foot freestanding loft building houses the company’s 20 employees. Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, helped with site selection. Jeremiah McWilliams

Council approves $22,000 in claims

Atlanta’s City Council voted on Tuesday to approve about $22,000 in claims against the city for automobile accidents and injuries from recessed manholes and uncovered water meter boxes. The 11 claims with favorable recommendations ranged from $674 for an car accident in June 2011 to $3,363 for another accident in November of that year. Jeremiah McWilliams

Student wins $3,000 in Dream essay contest

A Maynard H. Jackson High School senior has won first place in the annual Dream Scholarship Essay Contest.

Guadalupe Pacheco won a $3,000 scholarship for his essay honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The law firm Holland & Knight, which sponsored the contest, took essays from seniors in the Atlanta, Decatur, Fulton and DeKalb public school systems. Trinity Freeman of Milton High School won the $2,000 scholarship for second place and Carolina Rios of Booker T. Washington High School won the $1,000 scholarship for third place. Bill Rankin

Students head for Disney’s Dreamers

Nineteen Georgia students, including 17 from metro Atlanta, joined a select number from around the nation for the 2012 Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE magazine. From Thursday to Sunday, the students will be in Orlando for the four-day program hosted by entertainer/author Steve Harvey. The activities will include workshops on entrepreneurship and introductions to different career paths. Shandra Hill Smith


Petitions press for animal control change

More than 2,500 people have signed an online petition and another 1,000 have submitted written petitions, calling for DeKalb County to improve its animal control services and facility. The group called for funding to be restored to the department’s budget, which is set at $2.7 million for 2012 and includes funding for eight field officers. Several also want to shut down the county’s animal shelter, saying it is outdated. The DeKalb Animal Services Task Force is expected to issue its report later this spring and will address both staffing and facility problems. The report is expected also to be the basis for a move to outsourcing shelter services. April Hunt

County to host homebuyer’s workshop

DeKalb County will host a homebuyer education workshop this weekend to help residents focus on money management, down payment assistance and foreclosure prevention. The session runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Saint Philip AME Church, 240 Candler Road. Registration is required at Information: 678-763-1127. April Hunt

County to spend $441,000 on sod

The DeKalb County Commission recently approved spending up to $441,000 on sod between now and next August.

The contract with Oasis Construction Services of Roswell will cover needs to replace grass when the county’s sanitation department does work around DeKalb. April Hunt

Seminary dedicates new facility today

Columbia Theological Seminary will dedicate the Vernon S. Broyles Leadership Center today at 10 a.m. The 30,000-square foot facility incorporates the 80-year old Simons-Law building, and includes two new classroom wings. The most conspicuous new building is the glass-and-steel tower, which was included in the original 1920s blueprint but was never built. The facility’s named for the longtime pastor at North Avenue Presbyterian Church who, after retiring, was founding pastor of Big Canoe Chapel where he stayed until his death in 1992. Bill Banks for the AJC

Judson choir to perform at Rehobeth church

The Judson University Choir will perform at Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, 2729 Lawrenceville Highway in Decatur March 9 at 7 p.m. as part of its annual spring break tour. The concert is free and open to the public. Judson University is a Christian liberal-arts and sciences university in Elgin, Ill. Information: Veronica Fields Johnson

Rotary Club distributes race proceeds

The $30,000 profit from the Rotary Club of Dunwoody’s October 2011 race, RunDunwoody, has been partially distributed at each weekly Rotary meeting since January. Recipients are the Dunwoody Police Department, Dunwoody Fire Department, Ashford-Dunwoody YMCA, Georgia Perimeter College, Junior Achievement, and Peachtree Charter Middle School. The next race will be Oct. 21. Rotary Club of Dunwoody meets most Friday mornings at 7:15 a.m. at the Ravinia Club on Ashford-Dunwoody Road. Kenneth Musisi


Man accused of DUI with 4 children in truck

A Jonesboro man was in jail Tuesday, charged with driving drunk with his four young children in the back seat of his pickup truck, Channel 2 Action News reported. Sergio Aguilar, 36, has been charged with driving under the influence and four counts of child endangerment by DUI, according to Clayton County Sheriff’s records. Aguilar also has been charged with one count of driving without a license and two counts each of violating the state seat belt law and the law regarding child restraints. Aguilar blew .09 on a Breathalyzer test, records show. David Ibata

Fayette schools consider artificial turf

The Fayette County Board of Education got a primer on artificial turf for high school football fields Monday night.

A presentation by two local parents outlined the arguments in favor of replacing the county’s five grass fields with synthetic turf. The estimated $3.12 million cost would be funded by a continuation of the ESPLOST sales tax if the Board puts the measure on the November ballot.

Proponents argue that synthetic fields offer greater usability and less maintenance than grass. The Board plans a survey to gauge public opinion. Jill Howard Church for the AJC

Workshop to help seniors lower taxes

Fulton Housing and Community Development and the county tax assessors office will host another workshop Thursday teaching seniors how to lower their tax bills with homestead exemptions. The “Home Sweet Home” workshop will start at 7 p.m. at Benjamin E. Banneker High School, 5935 Feldwood Road, College Park.

The deadline to apply for homestead exemptions is April 2. The class will cover other tax reductions available for seniors age 62 and older, and how to apply for them. Information: 404-612-9184. Johnny Edwards

Students, staff to pack 24,000 meals today

Students and staff at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School in Fayetteville will pack 24,000 meals today to send to developing countries. The meal-packing is a schoolwide service project with the organization, Stop Hunger Now. The event begins at 10:45 a.m. and will be done in three shifts throughout the day. It is the first such project for the school. Tammy Joyner

Peachtree City council retreat begins Friday

Peachtree City’s annual City Council Retreat begins Friday , and the public is invited. Discussions will include a Facilities Bond, recreation improvements, storm water utility financing and the 2013 budget. Meetings will run 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-noon Saturday at City Hall. Information is on the calendar page at Jill Howard Church for the AJC

Henry to host arson seminar

The Henry County Fire Department will host the 2012 Spring Arson Seminar March 13-16 in McDonough. Jim Allen, a nationally recognized speaker and college professor with Allen Hancock College in California, will be presenting to fire investigators from across the state who have the need to testify in court cases. Monroe Roark for the AJC

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