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News for Sunday, January 15, 2006

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Smoking ban online survey has mixed results

LAWRENCEVILLE - Reviews are mixed for the latest proposed changes to Gwinnett's smoking laws.

Local students honored in VFW essay contest

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5255 honored four students and one teacher in its annual essay competition. Judi Wells, a teacher at Dacula Elementary School, won the Citizenship Education Teacher award. Yaa Sarpong took first place in the Voice of Democracy Audio Essay Competition. My-Ngoc To of Trickum Middle School won the Patriot's Pen Youth Essay Competition locally and for District 9. To placed second statewide. John Pantoja of Sweetwater Middle School took second locally, and home-school student Rebecca Rose Brazeale took third.

Sports calendar

Baseball

Through February: Early registration for T-ball for players age 4-8 is $50 through January. It's $60 after. Register online at www.firstbaptist.net or call 770-921-1220 ext. 256. Sponsored by the Recreation Ministry of First Baptist Lilburn.

Marketplace

Veteran Gwinnett banker Dianne F. Clancy has joined Georgia Trust Bank as first vice president and commercial lending officer. Clancy will serve in the bank's Buford location. Clancy began her banking career in 1968 as a teller with Gwinnett Federal Bank and has served in both retail and commercial positions during her career.

Birth Announcements

Nov. 14

Aydah Nicole Bythwood was born on Nov. 14, 2005, to Tameka Nicole Bythwood and Adrian Todd Bythwood of Grayson. She weighed 6 lbs., 1.6 ozs., and was 20 3/4 inches long.

Nov. 16

Nicholas Mark Summerour was born on Nov. 16, 2005, to Kimberly B. Summerour and Gregory M. Summerour of Flowery Branch. He weighed 7 lbs., 5 ozs., and was 19 inches long.

All in a day's work

Suit against Falcons' Vick in mediation

LAWRENCEVILLE - Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick has entered into court-ordered mediation hearings with a woman who sued him claiming he gave her a sexually transmitted disease.

Governor on roll early in election year

Sonny Perdue delivered one of the most effective speeches of his life last week.

If you earn your living as a public school teacher, he made you wish that Georgia held gubernatorial elections every year, instead of every four years.

City to build theater in old factory

WINDER - The roof is leaking at the old Duck Head factory. Insulation is scattered across the floor, cords hang from the ceiling and entire pieces of wall are simply gone.

Early risers get a head start on Relay for Life fundraising

Are you aware of an event or project that benefits our community? Contact Shelley Mann at 770-963-9205 ext. 1305 or shelley.mann@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Water costs rising in some cities

LAWRENCEVILLE - Washing a load of clothes, watering the lawn or filling the swimming pool will cost noticeably more in 2006 for Lawrenceville residents and businesses.

High-rises may be solution to migration

Noting the vast new housing developments sprouting like crabgrass in eastern Gwinnett County, one might be tempted to ask, "Where did all these people come from?" The answer is, by and large, from Gwinnett County.

Enter the new suburbanite, the sub-suburbanite, fleeing not the city but the "old" burbs. The fact that I have socks older than some of those neighborhoods is irrelevant. In a culture perpetually geared toward the next big thing, certain zip codes have become unfashionable, no longer fit for the upwardly mobile.

Talk to people who've recently moved to Hamilton Mill and you'll find many from Lilburn, Norcross and Duluth. People who for years called Lawrenceville home now boast Hochston and Auburn mailing addresses - along with 90-minute commutes.

In part, this eastward migration is fueled by a uniquely American restlessness, modified for the 21st century. Instead of setting out on the Oregon Trail, we head toward Dacula on 316, eyes alert for cardboard signs advertising new subdivisions, just as our forbearers once scanned the wilderness for sustenance.

The sub-suburbanite is also motivated by his determination to escape the gravitational pull of Atlanta, which, like some gaseous flaming planet, consumes all that enters its ever-expanding atmosphere. Parts of Gwinnett that, within recent memory, supported family farms are now unmistakably "the city," virtually indistinguishable from DeKalb and Fulton. That's not what people had in mind when they moved here 20 years ago.

But there's more to this phenomenon than simple "white flight." Among the sub-suburbanites are many blacks, Asians and Hispanics, all seeking the same things as their white neighbors: good schools, safe streets, a better life, a master on the main.

Whatever its causes, this sub-suburban migration has profound implications. Once-thriving communities are now little more than slums. Abandoned strip malls form miniature ghost towns, cut off as if by a veil from the bustling commerce around them.

Meanwhile, Gwinnett's well-to-do stack up on the county's eastern rim like logs against an earthen dam. Eventually, the dam must give way, spilling tax dollars into neighboring counties. Seepage has been constant for some time.

Into this milieu comes a proposal to rezone portions of western Gwinnett for high-rise office and apartment complexes. I say bring in the bulldozers. Traditional attempts at "renewal" don't seem to be working, as signs along I-85 advertise a "Gwinnett Village" that looks suspiciously like the same old seedy sprawl - proving once again, to paraphrase Hillary, that it takes a village to, well, be a village.

If Gwinnett is going to become part of Atlanta whether we like it or not, it might as well look more like Buckhead than Bankhead Highway. Perhaps an Atlantic Station-type development, aimed at young professionals, is exactly what we need to reverse the eastward trend and restore economic balance.

E-mail Rob Jenkins at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.

Shackelford brings experience to chamber's board of directors

DULUTH - With a power broker in state transportation matters at the helm, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce is getting behind a major project: commuter rail from Atlanta to Athens.

Golden Opportunities

Looking for a good story and finding 'The Coal Tattoo'

Last weekend, I started feeling kind of panicky because I didn't have anything to read. Technically, that's not true, since I have piles and piles of books at home and at work. What I didn't have, however, was something I felt like reading.

Wolves qualify for state dual wrestling tourney

For the second consecutive year and the second time in school history, the Wesleyan Wolves qualified for the state dual wrestling tournament.

Barrow BOC, BOE agree on homestead exemption

WINDER - A proposed exemption that would keep low-income seniors from paying school taxes passed both the county's Board of Commissioners and Board of Education this week, months after the two groups quarreled about the bill.

Venues offer hassle-free kids' birthday parties

c_ruse@hotmail.com

Although a child's birthday is an occasion to be celebrated, planning and playing host to a party for a crew of little ones can be an exhausting experience. Premonitions of screaming kids, cake icing on the carpet and piles of discarded wrapping paper to throw out can cause stress even before invitations are in the mail.

Luckily, there are several venues in Gwinnett County that provide children of all ages with unique ways to celebrate their birthdays, minus the stress and the mess.

•Parties for the tots Recommended ages: 1-7

Tumble Tots in Norcross is a party venue perfect for young children, and it offers a more private party experience than larger venues. The play facility is reserved for one party at a time and includes a moonwalk and ball pit, jungle gym, climbing dome, play house, doll house, dress-up clothes and musical instruments.

"We have a really nice play facility. It's so nice for the younger children - the little ones really love it," said Paula Soller, who has owned Tumble Tots for 11 years. "It's very friendly, bright and colorful."

OBITUARIES

BUFORD

LANE, ELIZABETH

Mrs. Elizabeth Lane age 79, of Buford, GA passed away January 14, 2006. Service and Arrangements will be announced later by: Junior E. Flanigan of: Flanigan Funeral Home and Crematory of Buford, GA, 770-932-1133.

LAWRENCEVILLE

ROYSTER, ANTHONY

Anthony Isaiah Royster, 15, of Lawrenceville, died Friday January 13, 2006. Arrangements by Bill Head Funeral Homes and Crematory, Lilburn/Tucker Chapel, 770-564-2726.

LILBURN

RIEKER, WILLIAM

Mr. William D. Rieker, age 94, died Jan. 12, 2006. Born Oct. 22, 1911, in Dayton, Ohio, he was a graduate of Winter Haven H.S. and attended the University of Florida, where he was a member of Chi Phi Fraternity. He had lived in Atlanta area since 1937 and was retired from the Life Ins. Co. of Virginia. He was a veteran of World War II where he served as Quartermaster 2nd class aboard the U.S.S. Corvus, a navy supply ship deployed in the Pacific. He was a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church for over 40 years and a member of St. John Neumann and St. Stephen Catholic Church after he moved to the Lilburn area in 1977. He was a 4th Degree Knight of the Knights of Columbus. He was an unfailingly polite and kind man and was loved by all who knew him. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, totally committed to his family. He also had a wicked sense of humor that never left him. His beloved wife of 62 years, Evelyn Pottinger Rieker, died in 1996. He is survived by daughters and son-in-law, Sharon Lee, Beverly and Ed McElroy; six grandchildren, Tracey (Mrs. Jeff) Woodall, Erin (Mrs. Dwayne) Vaughn, Edward (Ted) McElroy, Jr. and his wife, Heather, Kelly (Mrs. Jason) Richardson, Aubrey (Benji) Lee III, and William David McElroy; thirteen great grandchildren and many nieces, nephews and friends. The Memorial mass will be held Tuesday, January 17, at 3:00 p.m. at St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church, 5373 Wydella Rd., Lilburn, with Father Patrick Donaghey officiating. The family will receive visitors after the mass at the home of Beverly McElroy.

MONROE

SNYDER, DOROTHY

Dorothy Snyder age 82 of Hwy 138 in Monroe passed away on Friday, January 13, 2006. A native of Madison Co., Mrs. Snyder was the daughter of the late Clifford O. and Gertrude Coker Roberts. Her husband, James R. Snyder, preceded her in death. Mrs. Snyder was a member of the Red Hat Society and the Ladies Auxiliary of the United Transportation Union. She was also a homemaker and a member of the Bethlehem First Baptist Church. Survivors include a daughter Patricia Anne Snyder of Fort Worth, TX and grandchildren J.J. Kimmell and Hilary Bell Rivers and husband Jason. Funeral services will be held 11 AM Monday, January 16, at the Bethlehem First Baptist Church with Rev. Mike Peavey officiating. Interment will follow in Evergreen Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to Embracing Hospice, 2160 Fountain Dr., Snellville, Ga. 30078. On line tributes may be made at www.mem.com. Bernstein Funeral Home in charge of arrangements. www.bernsteinfuneralhome.com.

MOULTRIE

JOHNSON, MARY

Mary Johnson age 88 of Moultrie, GA passed away Saturday, January 14, 2006. At this time arrangements are incomplete and will be announced later by Tapp/Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 201 Morningside Drive, Buford, Georgia 30518. 770-945-9345

SNELLVILLE

COLE, MARGIE

Margie Cole, age 83 of Snellville, GA died January 14, 2006. She was preceded in death by her husband of 50 years James Cole. Mrs. Cole lived ten years of her life in Connie Maxwell Children's Home in Greenwood, South Carolina, and was a graduate of North Fulton High School. She is survived by: Daughter and son-in-law: Lura and Bruce Hammock of Loganville; Sons and daughter-in-laws: David and Denise Cole of Birmingham, AL, James Phillip and Gail Cole of Dallas, TX; Grandchildren: James Scott and Julie Hammock, Brian Lee and Jenny Hammock, Brittany Elizabeth Cole, Chelsea Marie Cole, Michael, Debbie, Kathy, Julie, and Jamie; Great Grandchildren: Brayden Cole Hammock, Savannah Paige Hammock, Aaron, Kiera, Fiora, Meghan, Trinity, and Hannah. Graveside services will be held Monday, January 16 at 2:00 PM at Eternal Hills Memory Gardens with Rev. Jimmy Wilson officiating. Visitation with the family will be from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Connie Maxwell Children's Home, P.O. Box 1178, Greenwood, SC, 29648. Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Inc., Snellville Chapel, 770-979-3200. www.wagesfuneralhome.com

SUWANEE

COOPER, CALVIN

Calvin Cooper, 77, of Suwanee, GA, died Friday January 13, 2006. The funeral service will be 1:00 PM Monday, January 16, 2006 at Bill Head Funeral Home Duluth Chapel with Rev. Roger Adams and Dr. Tommy Chupp Officiating. Interment White Chapel Memorial Gardens, Duluth. Mr. Cooper was a native of Blount Co. Alabama and a Industrial Engineer. Calvin was also a member of First Baptist Church of Cumming and a Corporal in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He loved his family, friends and country. Survivors include: Wife, Janet Cooper, Suwanee; Son and Daughter-in-Law, Larry and Jackie Cooper, Loganville; Daughter and Son-in-Law, Lynn and Randal Patterson, Suwanee; Daughter-in-Law, Robin Cooper, Duluth; Grandchildren, Clint Cooper, Leigh Ann Wilson, Jenna Patterson, Nicole Patterson, Allison Cooper, Mark Adams, Carrie Adams; Sisters, Esther Boyce, Atlanta, Ruth Alston, Jacksonville, FL; Brothers and Sister-in-Laws, Gerald and Ann Graves, Roger and Carole Adams; and a whole host of nieces and nephews. Calvin was preceded in death by his son David Cooper. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the American Cancer Society 6500 Sugarloaf Pkwy. Suite 260, Duluth, GA 30097. The family will receive friends Sunday, January 15, 2006 from 2-4 and 6-8 PM at Bill Head Funeral Homes and Crematory Duluth Chapel 770-476-2535.

WINDER

ALLEN, TEDDY

Mr. Teddy Max Allen, age 67, of Winder, Georgia died January 14, 2006. Carter Funeral Home of Winder is in charge of arrangements.

WEEKS, MARY

Mary Frances Layson Weeks, age 77, of Winder, died Friday, January 13, 2006 at Peachtree Christian Hospice in Duluth. Mrs. Weeks was born in Monticello, Georgia to the late Homer Franklin and Nannie Boyd Layson. She moved to Clarkston in 1957 where she was an active member of the Clarkston Baptist Church, the Mary-Martha Sunday School Class, and the Over the Fifty Club of Clarkston. She was a loving and devoted wife, mother, and friend. Mrs. Weeks was preceded in death by her husband of 58 years, William H. (Bill) Weeks, Jr., brother, Homer Franklin Layson, Jr. and son-in-law, Jerry R. Funderburke. She is survived by her children, Frances Lenora Funderburke of Hendersonville, North Carolina, Beverly Blanche and Jim Guffie of Montgomery City, Missouri, Stephen Harold and Tina Weeks of Winder, Ronald Alton and Kathy Weeks of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Nancy Ellen and Mark Yarbrough of Cumming; grandchildren, Shelly F. Lummus, Rebekah Guffie, Ron Weeks, Jr., Rachel Guffie, Tyler Weeks, Alexandrea Yarbrough, Marty Yarbrough, Ethan Weeks, Kristen Weeks, Jessica Weeks, Emily Weeks, and Elizabeth Weeks; great grandchild, JeriAnna Lummus; sisters, Julia Brooks of Bremen, and Viola Nothnagel of Charlotte, North Carolina; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Funeral services will be held Monday, January 16, 2006, at 1:00 P.M. at the chapel of Jordan Funeral Home in Monticello. Burial in West View Cemetery in Monticello. Rev. Jim Guffie will officiate. Serving as pallbearers will be Ronnie Weeks, Jr., Tyler Weeks, Ethan Weeks, Mark Yarbrough, Marty Yarbrough, John Graham and Ed Nothnagel. The family will receive friends from 3-8 P.M. Sunday, January 15, 2006, at Jordan Funeral Home, 264 Hillsboro Street, Monticello, Georgia 31064.

Thumbs up

Setting an example

Nine-year-old Rachel Renbarger of Duluth this week impressed us with her honesty and integrity. We give her an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Road closures

n Bogan Road from Harmony Elementary School to Hamilton Mill Road will require intermittent lane closures from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through March for safety improvements to include curb and gutter, sidewalk and a multi-use path.

One-on-one focus helps kids with hardships

DULUTH - Born four months premature, Jackson Roof spent the first few months of his life in the hospital. He developed autism, having difficulty with speech articulation, muscle tone, motor skills and socialization. Now, after six intensive years of home schooling, he has recovered from many of the symptoms of autism.

Norcross boys fallto No. 3 South Cobb

Special to GDP

SMYRNA - For all the star power in the much-ballyhooed matchup between No. 2 state-ranked Norcross and No. 3 South Cobb, it was a pair of role players that were the biggest difference makers for the Eagles.

Shootout draws former Gwinnett players, coach

Another week, another homecoming for Angie Hembree.

Foreclosures hit highest monthly total in years

There might be a little truth to the notion that, at least to the media, all economic news is bad.

But a remarkable number of foreclosures in metro Atlanta, including Gwinnett, is alarming.

Engagement Announcements

Beale - Parkerson

Gayle and Charlie Beale of Evans announce the engagement of his daughter, Heather Sinclaire Beale, to John Thomas Parkerson IV, son of Darlene and Tom Parkerson III of Lilburn.

Perdue's arrow up; Reed's down

Gov. Sonny Perdue and anybody running for lieutenant governor but Ralph Reed appear to have the momentum in Georgia's top political races entering this election year, judging from the latest batch of fundraising reports.

But both Democrats looking to turn the Republican governor out of office as well as Reed's camp are quick to note that Election Day is in November, not January. That gives them time to make up for any perceived shortcomings in either the amount of campaign cash they're bringing in or the pace of their fundraising efforts.

Perdue, seeking a second term as Georgia's first GOP governor since Reconstruction, had raised $10.4 million through the end of December, already dwarfing what he mustered against well-funded Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes four years ago.

More importantly, Perdue still has $8.5 million in his account. That's more than the two Democrats vying to unseat him, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox, have between them.

"Perdue is finding it much easier to raise money as an incumbent than as a challenger,'' said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia.

Still, the fact that Taylor and Cox are even that close to Perdue at this stage portends a competitive race this fall, said Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University.

Bullock said Democrats will pour money into the campaign of the candidate who survives the party's gubernatorial primary in July. After losing the Governor's Mansion and the General Assembly to the Republicans in the last four years, he said too much will be at stake in 2006 for Democrats not to open up their wallets.

"The Democrats are really going to rally around their candidate,'' he said. "If they lose the governorship again, it will be difficult for them to mount challenges in 2008 and 2010, when (U.S.) Senate seats are up again.''

Reed, a Duluth resident, once was the unassailable front-runner in the lieutenant governor's race, a former national chairman of the Christian Coalition-turned successful political consultant to conservative causes and a prolific fundraiser for Republican candidates.

But he was hit from all sides last week by opponents citing year-end fundraising reports as evidence that adverse publicity surrounding his business dealings with formerly powerful Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff have turned off contributors.

Abramoff pleaded guilty this month to bribing public officials in a widening scandal threatening to envelop members of Congress.

Reed's Republican primary opponent, state Sen. Casey Cagle, raised $667,000 during the last half of 2005, outstripping the $400,000 brought in by Reed during that period.

"We didn't think we'd raise this much this early,'' Cagle said. "We've exceeded every goal and every expectation.''

Former Sen. Greg Hecht, vying for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, also outraised Reed during the past six months - albeit by a razor-thin margin - in a primary race that has drawn much less attention than the Reed-Cagle contest.

On top of that, the campaign of former Democratic state Rep. Jim Martin released an internal poll last week that showed him leading Reed in a head-to-head matchup.

"I think the consequences of his associations with Abramoff are going to get more visible and more harmful as we proceed,'' Black said. "He's going to have a harder time raising money.''

But Jared Thomas, Reed's campaign manager, said the slower pace of his fundraising isn't important next to the big picture, which has Reed's $1.8 million leading Cagle by half a million dollars.

"This is just the ebb and flow of fundraising,'' Thomas said. "We don't measure our success by a week, a month or a quarter. We're running a marathon, and we're winning.''

Dave Williams is a staff writer for the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at dave.williams@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Georgia salaries on the rise for 2006

LAWRENCEVILLE

It's shaping up to be a good year for Georgia workers and their checking accounts.

Collins Hill not challenged on way to area duals title

HOSCHTON - The battle was for second place on Saturday at the Area 7-AAAAA Duals Championship at Mill Creek.

Parents who teach their children finding support

DULUTH - Raising seven children may seem inconceivably difficult to many Gwinnett parents.

But Vicki Hightower doesn't just want to raise her six daughters and one son. She wants to be the one to educate them as well. Like a growing number of local parents, she is home schooling her children.

Wedding Announcements

McClellan - Keeble

Lindsay Erin McClellan of Athens and James Dustin Keeble of New York were married on July 16, 2005 at St. Edward's Episcopal Church in Lawrenceville. The Rev. Kent Branstetter and the Rev. Carri Patterson Grindon officiated the ceremony.

King Day events won't dwell on controversy

LAWRENCEVILLE - Peaceful protests have always been a part of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy.

Gospel concert comes to Barrow

WINDER - Barrow County will celebrate its first Gospel Music Spectacular with a Monday concert.

Alito shows he'll be exactly what Bush wants on court

WASHINGTON

President Bush is getting what he wants in the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. The designated successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as the perfect company man who is likely to deliver exactly the kind of conservative rulings Bush prefers.

Smyth leads Gladiators to 5-3 win

DULUTH - Adam Smyth made his third goal of the season a game-winner and goalie Mike Dunham picked up a win in his first appearance since being assigned to the Gwinnett Gladiators by NHL Atlanta on Saturday.

Volunteers help out with tree recycling

LAWRENCEVILLE - The evergreens stacked 12-feet high on Gwinnett Technical College's front lawn Saturday were a veritable jungle gym for the teens and adults who clambered all over them.

Group's work continues after Hurricane Katrina

As I write this article, it is almost four months to the day since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast, most notably New Orleans. As with most of our sister agencies and organizations, Katrina hit St. Vincent de Paul Society full force. Having never experienced a disaster of this magnitude, we had no idea how the aftermath would change our operational lives. I venture to say we couldn't conceive that a hurricane that far from us could so profoundly affect our work in metro Atlanta.

How has St. Vincent de Paul Society changed? The Society has focused on those in need after disasters occurred. In other words, the Society has not been a first responder ... until Katrina. My staff and volunteers in Gwinnett and other counties got hit swiftly by the thousands of evacuees who fled to Atlanta with nothing but the clothes on their backs. We went into crisis mode, unaware of the long-term effects on our organization.

It's raining bears

Linder says he wasn't aware of Abramoff ties to contributions

Congressmen have been donating campaign funds to charity since lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty this month to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public

officials.

Perdue 2007 budget sparks praise, worry

ATLANTA - Georgia teachers had a lot to be excited about last Wednesday when Gov. Sonny Perdue delivered his annual State of the State address.

He told them his 2007 budget would dedicate 72 percent of more than $1.2 billion in new revenues to education, including bigger raises, a freeze on health insurance premiums and an initiative to reduce class sizes.

But teachers woke up Thursday to find out what the Republican governor hadn't said in his speech: His budget also would make further cuts to the formula governing per-pupil expenditures, continuing a pattern of annual reductions that Democrats blame for local property tax increases in school districts across Georgia.

"The euphoria of the party gives way to a hangover the next day,'' said Tim Callahan, president of the 65,000-member Professional Association of Georgia Educators. "You could make the case that the governor is funding some of the new initiatives with continuing cuts.''

A mix of good news tempered by nagging concerns is to be found throughout the $18.6 billion budget Perdue proposed to the General Assembly last week, up from this year's $17.4 billion.

Spurred by surging tax revenues generated by a recovering economy, the governor is sparing doctors, hospitals and nursing homes the cuts in reimbursement rates they have been forced to absorb during the last few years.

Perdue also is promising to restore full funding to two environmental cleanup funds that he and lawmakers have raided in years past to help make ends meet elsewhere.

And, armed with a surplus in gasoline tax money due to higher pump prices, the governor is recommending a major boost to the state's perennially underfunded local roads program.

"It makes it a lot easier to do anything in government when you've got money,'' said Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Uncertainties cited

On the downside, there are worries that a significant chunk of the budget is based on assumptions that may or may not work out.

Health providers would escape the ax largely because of huge anticipated savings in the Medicaid program, much of which is to be converted to managed care on April 1.

Perdue's proposal to borrow more than $900 million mostly for construction projects, his third large bond package in a row, also has stirred fears that the state might be getting too deep into debt.

And there are concerns that the state's "rainy-day fund,'' drained down to just $50 million at the height of the recession, isn't being rebuilt quickly enough. That surplus had been brought back up to about $250 million at the end of the last fiscal year, far below a pre-recession peak of more than $900 million.

"If we're going to keep (increasing) it by $200 million a year, it will take three years to get back to where we were,'' said Alan Essig, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. "If a recession happens sooner that that, we'll be in

trouble.''

Perdue called education "the big winner'' in his budget almost a week before his State of the State message. Most of the spending tidbits he revealed in the days leading up to the speech were education initiatives, including a plan to resume class size reductions begun during the administration of former Gov. Roy Barnes.

Several key budget items in this election year are aimed directly at teachers, a group of voters considered instrumental in Perdue's upset victory in 2002 over Barnes, who had angered teachers by attempting to eliminate tenure.

While state employees would get raises of 2 percent to 4 percent next year, Perdue is proposing the full 4 percent for teachers. They also would get $100 gift cards they could use to buy school supplies.

However, the budget also includes a $170 million cut in K-12 formula funding, roughly equivalent what the governor is proposing to spend on reducing class sizes.

"Many school systems are going to continue having to do more with less when they believed the improving economy was going to lift that burden from them,'' Callahan said.

Smaller cut

But Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, chairman of the House Education Committee, said the cut represents only about half of the annual formula reductions Perdue and the legislature made during each of the last three years.

"We've made great progress in restoring that,'' he said.

Environmental advocates also subscribe to the half-a-loaf theory when it comes to Perdue's treatment of their concerns.

They are delighted that he wants $8.3 million for the state's Hazardous Waste Trust Fund and $7.5 million for the Solid Waste Trust Fund, fully funding both for the first time in four years.

But Neill Herring, a lobbyist for the state chapter of the Sierra Club, said the governor's recommendation to hire eight new erosion inspectors for construction sites is woefully inadequate.

"I think there are 80 vacancies with soil erosion,'' he said. "They're really letting us down.''

There wasn't such a mixed reception for Perdue's transportation budget. His plan to pour $234 million in gas tax money into his "Paving the Way Home'' initiative for local roads has gotten as enthusiastic a response as any of his budget proposals.

About $60 million would go to the Local Roads Assistance Program, which pays for maintenance of county highways.

"It's lagged behind. It's desperately needed,'' Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus said of LARP, a program created decades ago but seldom funded at the level originally intended.

Providers happy

Doctors and hospitals, too, will have less to argue about during the upcoming legislative review of the governor's

budget.

"We're delighted that there were no additional cuts,'' said Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health Care, which represents rural hospitals across the state. "We're pleased with what we see.''

Nursing homes would fare even better. Hit hard by reimbursement-rate cuts in recent years, they're due for a $20 million increase in reimbursements next year.

But those steps are predicated on almost $500 million in savings anticipated from the upcoming conversion of Medicaid to managed care, a new disease management program for aged, blind and disabled Medicaid recipients and steps the state is taking to make sure only eligible patients receive benefits.

"If we get (the savings), fine,'' Essig said. "If we don't, we have a hole.''

Harbin said he is confident that the Legislature's budget committees will figure out how to achieve those savings without compromising patient care.

"We don't want to do something that limits access,'' he said. "But we have to find a way to keep costs down.''

Harbin conceded that the state's reserves won't be as healthy as he would like next year. He said the needs of a growing state won't allow for building the reserves back to where they once were in a year or two.

"With the economy picking up, we'll get there eventually,'' he said.

Voices in business

Each week the Gwinnett Daily Post profiles the business men and women who help drive the success of local companies and small businesses alike. Interested in a profile? Call Doug Sams, business reporter, at 770 963-9205, ext. 1321, or e-mail him at doug.sams@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Costco coming to Mall of Georgia area

"What's going on here?" is a weekly column that appears in the Sunday business section of the Gwinnett Daily Post. If you see a construction site and don't know what's being built, call Douglas Sams, business reporter, at 770-963-9205, ext. 1321, or e-mail him at doug.sams@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Gwinnett Gab

Stone Mountain Park to hire more than 500 employees

STONE MOUNTAIN - Stone Mountain Park plans to fill more than 500 positions for the 2006 season. The park is holding a job fair from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 4, looking for candidates to fill open jobs in the areas of food, merchandise, attractions, campground, parking, grounds and more. Interested people are encouraged to bring their resume, or they can complete a job application when they arrive. Interviews will be conducted on the spot.

Icing on the cake

Public hearing, vote to be held on rezoning for 967-home subdivision

LAWRENCEVILLE - With the massive Hamilton Mill subdivision almost built out, a developer is looking to replicate its success just to the west.

Panthers cruise to region title

LILBURN - This one was pretty much over before it got started. As long as the Parkview wrestling team showed up on Saturday and the doors to the gym were open, it was all but assured the Panthers were going to win the Region 8-AAAAA duals title.