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Leaders reflect on state of county
2009 posed challenges
Ford Gravitt - photo by Jennifer Sami

Ann Crow, chair of local school board:
“There are so many opportunities for students to succeed in our educational system and that’s what it’s all about. We set a culture in our school system of understanding and appreciating communities. And with the help of parents and businesses, I think it’s a true partnership in teaching these kids what it means to care about your community.”

H. Ford Gravitt, mayor of Cumming:
“We [were] able to work within the framework of all of our department heads and staff and budget the money for all our various departments without having to lay off or give any furloughs to any of our employees. We are poised right now with all the infrastructure ... in place for the growth.”

Charles Laughinghouse, county commission chairman:
“This will be my final state of the community address. Serving this community, representing the citizens of District 1 and having the chance to know all of you has truly been an honor. The recent accomplishments in the county have been many. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, Forsyth County truly does continue to excel.”
New schools, a greenway, water infrastructure — it’s been a busy year for Forsyth County.

Municipal leaders joined those from the county school system and government to review their individual successes Thursday during the Cumming-Forsyth County State of the Community Address.

More than 150 attended the annual event, which was sponsored by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and the Council for Quality Growth.

“Communities don’t get great by accident,” said James McCoy, chamber president and CEO. “It’s intentional and it requires an awful lot of great leadership and we are blessed with that in this community.”

As the largest employer in the county, the school system is growing in demand.

Ann Crow, who chairs the board of education, said the district was able to open five new schools this year despite budget cuts.

Planning and flexibility from state mandates have helped focus the system’s resources where they’re most needed, she said.

In addition, the system is launching iAchieve, a program of online classes to help advanced and faltering students move ahead.

The city of Cumming is also moving ahead, particularly along Pilgrim Mill Road.

The area will be the site for a new National Guard armory, driver’s services department and aquatic center, said Mayor H. Ford Gravitt.

The mayor hopes the area will also one day house a satellite campus of North Georgia College & State University.

Gravitt also updated the crowd on completed and upcoming road projects, as well as the city’s many recent water infrastructure improvements.
County Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse touted the 6.8-mile section of the Big Creek Greenway that opened last year in south Forsyth.

Laughinghouse also showed a short video, highlighting features that make the county an attractive option for families.

The chairman said 2009 was a banner year for public safety, which was recognized in a recent audit.

As a result, the county’s Insurance Services Office rating dropped, marking an improvement in protection and a potential insurance rate reduction for residents and businesses.

While all three government agencies reduced their budgets, services have continued to expand at Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

Since October 2002, spokesman George Ivey said, the hospital has “not had one single day without construction.”

The hospital’s growth, which could continue with a $51 million proposed expansion, is symbolic of the belief it shares with the local governments.

“We believe in Forsyth County. We believe that the opportunity for our future is best assured in Forsyth County,” Ivey said. “In this community, we have reason for good hope.”