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Commission chairwoman recounts 2021 milestones

Mills, Cindy Jones

MILLS

Having had the privilege of growing up here in Forsyth County, I have seen many things change over the years. This past year was no different.

It is my continued focus, as well as the Board of Commissioners’, that as Forsyth County continues to grow, we ensure growth that is smart and in keeping with the vision of comprehensive plan. The county’s 2020 census data showed our population increased by 40 percent in just ten years. Part of our strategy for smart growth included the county joining the Atlanta Regional Commission this year. In doing so, we now have a seat at the table and a stronger voice on policies that affect our county and can receive funding that will help improve infrastructure to offset the impacts of growth.

Forsyth County joins Atlanta Regional Commission

At the beginning of the year, one of our primary goals was to improve our customer service from the top, down. Our new county manager, Kevin Tanner, began in January with this goal in mind. Every department has found ways to improve, becoming more efficient in the process.

Another area we have made a priority is finding the best balance possible between nurturing our growth while also maintaining the rural qualities that helped make Forsyth such a desirable community. To help preserve our community’s agricultural roots, the Board passed a conditional use permit for agritourism so our residents who operate agricultural properties have another means of valuable income that will help maintain the integrity of their land.

Forsyth County fosters agritourism with new use permit

We have taken major steps this past year in supporting the residents that call Forsyth home now and those that will in the future. Several road projects were completed and started to help ease traffic congestion throughout the county. In north Forsyth, work began on the widening of SR 369 at 400, along with the installation of an overpass exit. Pilgrim Mill Road saw a widening, and the Ronald Reagan Boulevard extension began that will run from Majors Road to McGinnis Ferry. Another south Forsyth project is in the works to widen the south Forsyth border road McGinnis Ferry as well as a large portion of Old Atlanta Road.

Our water systems also saw improvements with an upgrade to Fowler Water Reclamation Facility to increase capacity and the Board approved the installation of the county’s own water intake facility for Lake Lanier which will be built over the next five years. This facility will create water independence for the county by allowing us to withdraw water directly from Lake Lanier, instead of relying on the City of Cumming’s water intake. It will also provide redundancy and resilience for our region’s water systems, particularly in the event of an emergency.

Our Emergency Management Agency also took steps to provide support through the availability and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with Northside Hospital Forsyth, volunteers and our amazing first responders. We were able to show how Forsyth was managing vaccine distribution to some of Georgia’s top leaders including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux.

Forsyth County to begin mass COVID-19 vaccination events

The county also focused heavily on economic development this year while leveraging rescue recovery dollars from the federal government. We were able to use approximately $17 million of those dollars for sewer lines to target highly sought out commercial areas that should bring a high rate of return to our tax digest in commercial development and keep jobs in the county. Our board took it a step further to write a resolution ensuring 75% of those recovery lines will go to that intended purpose before they can be used for residential needs.

Our parks and amenities are continuing to flourish with something for everyone. Phase five of the Big Creek Greenway opened this year, extending the trail to stretch it over 15 miles. Our northern residents will soon have a new and improved Lanierland Park, set to be complete in the fall of 2022. Eagle’s Beak Park is being developed right now with help from a GOSP grant of $2.25 million and a match of $700,000 from the solid waste fund from our memorandum of understanding with Green for Life Landfill. We also look forward to the recreation center being planned for Matt Community Park soon.

Governments scramble to make Big Creek Greenway whole

Our communications team is producing more information than ever before to keep our citizens informed on all things Forsyth County. Developments in our communication strategy included adding a community liaison who will work directly with our neighborhoods and developing county newsletters and videos with up-to-date information on transportations projects, zonings and other pertinent data. We are determined to continue providing timely, accurate information to our residents.

A large part of our future plans includes updating the county’s comprehensive plan. We are relying on our residents to help us build our future by participating in public information meetings and online surveys throughout the new year. Input from our citizens is vital to the visioning and success of this plan. I highly encourage our residents to learn more about the comp plan update and engage in the process by visiting FosterForsyth2022.com. And, for all things county government, whether it is road project updates, parks facilities, news, meetings and more, please visit forsythco.com and sign up to receive email updates sent right to your inbox.

I know I speak for all the county’s employees when I say that we are excited to continue to serve this special community in the new year with dedication and heart, and we all are grateful for the opportunity to serve and will look for more ways to do it better in the new year.

- Cindy Jones Mills, Forsyth County Commission chairwoman