As I reflect on 2015, I am filled with pride at our accomplishments. I proclaimed 2015 as “The Year of Public Works” and we kept to that ideal. We delivered a year of marked improvements, procedural advancements, and community discussion, introspection, and looking ahead. We made significant road and intersection improvements, changed the way we prepare budgets, and undertook a variety of plans to propel us forward in a smart and thoughtful way.
Among our more notable achievements, we allocated more than $33 million on road improvements last year and know that we have much more to do. After years of neglect as an unincorporated entity, we have a lot of improvements to catch up on and we have an aggressive plan in place to help reduce congestion and improve the traffic flow through our city.
We launched a multi-year effort to repave our neighborhood streets, resurfacing 34 miles of roadway in 34 neighborhoods at a cost of $5.8 million. The City partnered with Waze, the world’s largest group-sourced navigation network, to provide motorists with timely traffic information and to learn more about traffic patterns. The City Council approved $10 million for road improvements in Fiscal Year 2016 and we will work to identify additional funding as well.
Our Public Works Department widened a portion of Jones Bridge Road from two to four lanes with landscaped medians and sidewalks and trails. We also began construction on roundabouts at Bell and Boles roads and at Crossington and Sargent roads. Although they take a bit to get used to, studies show that roundabouts move traffic effectively, reduce the number and severity of accidents, and are more cost-effective than traditional traffic signals.
With public safety, the Johns Creek Fire Department’s preparation and hard work led to improved citywide fire safety ratings used by insurance companies, saving our residents and businesses in their insurance premiums. The department added a new, custom-made swift water rescue boat that improved response time in saving people in the Chattahoochee River by being able to navigate shallow water more rapidly. Our Police Department also improved its ability to save lives when it began carrying special medication, Narcan, in each vehicle that helps to reverse effects of heroin overdoses on the spot.
In our parks, the City conducted a 5-month-long study in which we surveyed thousands of residents and parks users about what they want to see in our park system in the future. We conducted exhaustive research and analyzed the data and developed a draft plan to guide investments in our parks for the next 10 years.
While the parks study was underway, we built restrooms for the Amphitheater at Newtown Park, installed public art, and upgraded some of our playgrounds, including equipment for kids with special needs. The Park Place senior center added new programs, and we expanded our Parks Without Borders program with Alpharetta to include recreational baseball and lacrosse. We also purchased land for a neighborhood pocket park on Morton Road.
In one of our most impactful achievements, we purchased 133 acres on the Chattahoochee River for a park. This land acquisition addressed one of the key desires of those surveyed that said have a strong desire for more park land. More discussion will happen before we are ready to move forward with any type of development on this land. However, this significant land purchase will enable us to move forward with any land use option that is ultimately approved by the City Council.
The City Council will review the draft 10-year Master Recreation and Parks plan and make it available for additional public comment before taking a final vote to move the plan forward. I am excited that the plan addresses the high demand our residents have placed on us to expand our parks and recreation.
The city also worked with an outside consulting company to develop a draft Strategic Economic Development Plan (SEDP). The SEDP represents a city-wide strategy that is designed to establish Johns Creek as competitive in the economic development arena and ensure a strong business climate while preserving and protecting the outstanding residential quality of life that currently exists.
The SEDP was informed by lessons learned from other cities and promotes increased public/private partnerships, attracting key industries that fit Johns Creek, and protecting the assets that have forged its reputation as one of Atlanta’s premier communities (i.e. municipal services/facilities, quality of education, and high income households).
The City Council will also review the draft SEDP to determine the economic way forward for Johns Creek. This process will also include public comment ahead of a final vote.
Although not required until 2017, the Community Development Department has already begun its update to the City’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The review, which will bring together diverse stakeholders and interest groups, will encompass land use citywide and development ordinances to refine the City’s strategic land use planning and direction.
Among other accolades, we finished the year as being recognized as the nation’s 3rd best city in which to live. As the schools within Johns Creek continue to be recognized both in the state and nationally for academic excellence and high standards, they remain a beacon for those that seek exceptional education opportunities for a bright future.
In keeping with our motto, “Be The Exception”, our city was recognized as the safest in the state and our municipal services are among the best. We are very fortunate to have a dedicated and caring city staff and safety departments and I could not be more proud of what they do day in and day out to help make Johns Creek an exceptional city.
The next state legislative session is scheduled to kick off in January and I recommend that you follow it closely as decisions made during this session will have an effect on our city. Following HB170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, more discussion will be forthcoming on a potential TSPLOST initiative, therefore, your voices are important and I encourage you to exercise your right to be heard.
Finally, I am very optimistic as we head in to 2016, which also marks our 10th anniversary as a city that we will continue to move projects forward and continue to build a future that will sustain our high quality of life. We encourage more resident involvement at our meetings as well as involvement in our upcoming plans and initiatives. To keep up with latest and to let us hear from you, please follow us on Facebook
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The City Council and I are humbled and proud to represent our exceptional City and we look forward to a great 2016!