Outdoor warning sirens, a new Leadership Forsyth project, American Rescue Plan funding and redistricting were aired during a recent Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session.
Commissioners approved each item with a 4-0 vote, with District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper absent, unless otherwise noted.
According to the U.S. Constitution, a population recount must be done every 10 years and lines must be redrawn according to the census.
Tanner presented an updated map of possible, new district lines in Forsyth County. He said the Board of Education approved of the map because it kept all BOE and BOC members in their own districts.
Semanson asked for an electronic copy to be posted so that constituents can figure out where the new lines are.
“We may start getting some questions from our constituents as to where those actual dividing lines are,” Semanson said. “You can look at that blob [on the map] and you can generally tell, but when you get down to street-level, I think we want to see that.”
Mills said she thought the map “[made] more sense” since it was “a numbers thing” and “there [was] no gerrymandering.”
Semanson and Levent also said they were “OK with this map,” and Semanson said she liked that every commissioner would “have skin in the game when it comes to [Ga. 400].”
Commissioners approved to send the presented map to state delegation for further assessment. Tanner said the map would also be submitted to the county’s technical and reinforcement offices.
Outdoor warning sirens
The board authorized county staff to purchase five additional outdoor warning sirens from ATI Systems for $146,067.
The proposed siren sites are at the Sawnee Mountain Preserve on Spot Road, Bettis Tribble Gap Road, Vickery Creek Middle School, Matt Community Park, and Buford Dam Road and Rockport Drive, which is close to Sawnee Campground.
Chris Grimes, director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency said that they focused on putting the sirens in areas they “felt like had large population centers that were not covered by a siren.”
“I always like to remind people, sirens are not meant to be heard indoors,” Grimes said. “They are designed to be heard if you are outdoors [so you can] seek shelter.”
Grimes said when judging a potential warning siren site, population is key. Topography can also affect an area, such as large trees and other buffering landforms; so Grimes presented two sites on either side of Sawnee Mountain.
Commissioners liked the placement of the sirens because, as District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson said, siren placement was less of a “district element” and more of a “public safety element.”
Chairwoman Cindy Jones Mills asked about Halcyon and other future mixed-use developments and their potential for being sites for sirens. She asked Grimes if it would be beneficial for developers to include possible warning siren locations within the plans for future mixed-use developments.
Grimes said that he thought that was “a great idea from a public safety aspect.”
Mills proposed possibly thinking about adding a condition to the mixed-use development ordinance to include that issue.
Commissioners approved the purchase of five additional warning sirens.
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American Rescue Plan funding
County Manager Kevin Tanner presented a proposed use for American Rescue Plan funds the county received.
The American Rescue Plan provided relief due to COVID-19 for public health, state and local governments, individuals and businesses.
Tanner said that the commercial sewer project could use between $17-19 million to do some “targeted commercial sewer” installations.
“We want to be able to spend these dollars in a way to where 20 years from now, a citizen in Forsyth County is going to know where their tax dollars … went,” Tanner said.
Tanner presented some commercial and industrial candidates locations determined by the Forsyth County Chamber and Forsyth County government staff as areas in need. No residential areas were presented.
Semanson asked if there were any “safeguards” that could be put in place to help preserve the current board’s intent.
“We’re envisioning this being limited to help … balance our tax digest [and] give some relief the citizens who live here, but there has got to be some way to put a safety on that other than just relying on the current politics of the board,” Semanson said.
John echoed Semanson’s point adding “from our experience … any time sewer goes in, high density residential typically follows.”
Molly Esswein, representing County Attorney Ken Jarrard’s office, said she could return to the board with some “safeguards” that could help preserve the board’s intent.
Commissioners approved staff to move forward up until the point of construction of sewer lines with a direction to return to the board to present safeguards for each commercial development proposed.
Leadership Forsyth project
Assistant County Manager David McKee told the board that Leadership Forsyth was looking for a new project for the 2021-22 class to complete to benefit the county.
He said that while several projects were pitched, the one selected was the restoration of the Tolbert Street Cemetery, which is close to the recycling center in downtown Cumming.
“It is on public property, and it is in need of restoration,” McKee said. “It needs good public access to it.”
If approved by the board, McKee said that the project would be presented to the Leadership Forsyth class for further evaluation.
McKee said that the class would try to raise $15,000 through fundraisers and that a rock quarry has already agreed to give rock and gravel for any footpaths. He also said that most of the physical work could be done in three to four weeks, but the research surrounding the project would take the most time.
“A huge part of this [project] is going to be a research group,” McKee said. “I think that’s probably going to spend most of our time to figure out who’s there [and] when they were there.”
McKee said the plots at the cemetery had dates that ranged from early 1800s to late 1800s, so it was a “very, very old cemetery.”
Commissioners approved the project with a 3-0 vote with Cooper absent and District 2 Commissioner Alfred John recused for his involvement with Leadership Forsyth.