The Post's reporters were asked to review stories that happened on their beat this year and pick the 10 biggest. There is also a bonus feature - Mayors Moving On. A look at seven of Gwinnett's and Barrow's mayors who helped build and transform the local community.
Education (Heather Darenberg)
This February marks my third anniversary as a full-time reporter, and I've spent about half of that time covering education here in Gwinnett County. Before moving to Lawrenceville, I was the cops and courts reporter at The Albany Herald, the Post's sister paper. Today, Heather Darenberg ranks her choices for the top-10 education stories of 2007.
10. Gwinnett Technical College was named this year as the co-recipient of a $1.9 million grant to establish the Georgia Bioscience Technology Institute, which will have a presence here and at Athens Technical College. Read more...
9. The State Board of Education this year approved changes to the high school graduation requirements, which will affect students who will become high school freshmen in August. Read moree...
8. The county's largest private schools celebrated milestones this year.
Greater Atlanta Christian School entered its 40th year, and founder Jesse Long published a memoir of his early days at the school. The school will continue to celebrate its anniversary next year, and homecoming will take place in January. Read more.....
Meanwhile, the Wesleyan School finished construction on all buildings in its master plan. The school has been at its Norcross location since 1996. Now that construction is complete, the focus will turn toward building the school's endowment. Read more...
7. The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology and the New Life Academy of Excellence, Gwinnett's first charter schools, each opened this year with about 200 students. Read more..
6. Laura Mallory continued her fight to keep the popular Harry Potter series out of classrooms, but the Loganville mother of four lost a judicial hearing in May. Read more..
5. South Gwinnett junior Arquevious Crane suffered a debilitating injury to his spinal cord during a junior varsity game and spent several weeks in hospitals. Crane was released this month, but he is paralyzed from the chest down. Read more.....
4. Brookwood High School quarterback Daniel Peek died from injuries sustained in a one-vehicle accident. More than 1,500 people came to his funeral, including several high school football players. Read more...
3. Georgia Gwinnett College welcomed its first freshmen this summer . The college also moved forward in its quest to receive accreditation, as the school has been approved for a candidacy visit.
2. Gwinnett County Public Schools moved forward with its aggressive building plan and created the attendance boundaries for 15 new schools opening in the next couple of years. The changes affected about 23,000 students at 36 existing schools. Read more..
1. The state's largest public school system continued its growth this year, adding more than 3,600 students and bringing its enrollment up to more than 155,700 pupils. But the growth wasn't as great as it has been in years past, and the district fell about 3,500 students short of its projection. Read more..
Health and Wellness (Melissa Wilson)
Though October only marked year one for me as the health reporter at the Post, in that time I have seen and had the privilege to write about some amazing and, quite frankly, strange happenings in Gwinnett County. Today, Melissa Wilson ranks her choices for the top 10 health stories of 2007.
10. Kaiser opens facility in Sugar Hill/Buford
Kaiser Permanente opened a medical center in Gwinnett this year complete with pharmacy, radiology and medical services. The 16,000-square-foot facility at 1435 Broadmoor Blvd. in Sugar Hill is the second Kaiser center in Gwinnett. The center is staffed with three physicians and nine staff members to provide a range of services from adult medicine and pediatrics to gynecology and lab services.
9. Relay for Life
The American Cancer Society raised approximately $1.2 million dollars during this year's Relay for Life. Nearly 10,000 packed into the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds during a May weekend for a two-day walk to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Participants set up and decorated campsites to serve as shelters and places to rest between walking laps, which were aimed at raising money for cancer research and education for each lap walked.
8. Nearing pollen record
he pollen made its way to Gwinnett this spring and experts said it was some of the worst they'd seen.The pollen count this year made history for the spore-floating dust, topping off at a count of 5,937 for Atlanta and the surrounding areas. It was the second time in the city's history the count reached the high number. Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic's Abstract Lab Director, Marie McFalls, said an April 12, 1999 count of 6,013 was the highest ever recorded.
7. West Nile in Gwinnett
Two Gwinnett County residents tested positive for the West Nile virus this summer. The Gwinnett County Health Department announced a 53-year-old in the northern part of the county and a 57-year-old person tested positive for the mosquito-borne disease. At last update from the Health Department, both people infected were being treated and expected to make a full recovery.
6. GMC new tower
A June "Crane Christening" was the ceremonial start to the expansion of Gwinnett Medical Center's Lawrenceville campus, which will add a 155-bed, five-story tower to the existing hospital plus a number of renovations and technological upgrades. The expansion is part of the hospital's Project PATH (Planning, Advancing and Transforming Health care), an initiative planning the medical center's next five years. The patient tower that currently houses 175 beds was constructed in 1984. Construction on the $61 million expansion is slated for completion in 2009.
5. GMC open heart and more...
Gwinnett Medical Center will soon file a certificate of need with the state in hopes of receiving approval to add an open heart surgery program at the Lawrenceville campus. Nearly 800 letters of support have been received by the hospital from supportive community members, according to hospital officials. GMC plans to file the application before 2008. Gwinnett is the only county of its size in the country without an open heart surgery program.
4. Psychiatrist charged with sexual assault, battery
Dr. Mohammad Uzair Qureshi, a psychiatrist at the Gwinnett Rockdale Newton Community Service Board in Lawrenceville was charged with sexual battery and assault after more than 10 women came forward in September with complaints they were sexually assaulted by the doctor. The 45-year-old doctor was arrested at his Lawrenceville home in September and later made bail. An investigation surrounding the doctor began after a female patient approached Lawrenceville police with complaints Qureshi conducted an unnecessary breast exam during an initial psychiatric consultation.
3. Worst nursing home and correction to story
A local facility whose name appeared on a government list of worst nursing homes was on the list in error, state officials announced in November. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a list containing 54 of the nation's poorest long-term health care facilities, denoting Laurel Baye Healthcare of Lake Lanier in Buford as one of three not up to par homes in the state. Within a few days after the release, the error was corrected and the home's name cleared from the list.
2. TB Scare - arrest , isolation , TB patient and mom to be deported , awaiting deportation
In August a Duluth teen was ordered to be isolated inside the Gwinnett County Jail by a county judge after reports the 17-year-old had tuberculosis and was refusing treatment. An investigation ensued by the Gwinnett County Board of Health to determine if Francisco Santos of 1712 The Falls Parkway may have infected anyone. The teen as well as his family and friends were treated while Santos and his mother faced deportation hearings in federal court. After being deemed healthy, Santos and his mother were deported to Mexico.
1. GMC layoffs
Gwinnett Medical Center officials announced in June their decision to make budget cuts, which included laying off 72 hospital employees. As part of a four-month internal Strategic Performance Improvement Plan, the hospital made more than $22 million in cost reductions, affecting both the Lawrenceville and Duluth medical center locations, hospital spokesman Kyle Brogdon said. Medical Center President and CEO Phil Wolfe said the decision to cut back was a way of balancing the hospital's revenues and costs. Although Project PATH, which includes the need for a more than $400 million capital expansion for the hospital was announced a few months earlier, hospital officials said the layoffs and financial changes were not a part of the multi-year plan.
Barrow County (Christy Smith)
This spring I will celebrate my eighth year as a Gwinnett Daily Post reporter. I covered five city governments in North Gwinnett for 61/2 years before switching to Barrow County in October 2006, where I covered all topics. It's been a great year for news in Barrow County. These are my picks for the top 10 Barrow stories of 2007.
10. Winder-Barrow Middle School eighth-graders in danger of failing the math portion of Georgia's Criterion-Referenced Competency Test are studying in single-gender math classes. The pilot program was implemented last fall following math teacher Erica Boswell's research into the study of biological differences that cause boys and girls to learn in different ways. Read more..
9 . Auburn- and Braselton-area residents living near the site of a proposed high-voltage substation and power lines fought all year against the projects. Georgia Transmission Corp. officials originally planned to construct the substation on 3.5 acres at the intersection of Dee Kennedy and Harmony Grove Church Roads on property that had been in the Lyle family for more than a century. Read more...
8. Spc. Christopher Shore, 25, of Winder, will face third-degree murder charges in the death of an Iraqi detainee, despite a military investigator's recommendation that those charges be dropped. Read more...
7. Barrow County students returned to school about three weeks later than usual due to construction upgrades on five schools. The upgrades allowed the school system to cut the number of trailers in use to 71 from 115. Read more..
6. Barrow County's Board of Commissioners voted in November to build a $19.9 million, two-story Northeast Georgia Arts and Convention Center at the intersection of Ga. Highway 316 and Ga. Highway 53. The project is a joint effort of the Barrow County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education. Read more....
5. Barrow County officials broke ground on a new $46 million courthouse/jail facility on 30 acres near Pearl Pentecost Road in February. The jail will hold about 325 inmate beds and four courtrooms. The existing courthouse, built in 1920, will be used as office space. Construction will be financed through bonds and paid back with one-cent sales tax funds, said Keith Lee, Barrow County's chief administrator. Read more...
4. A 10-member committee that includes teachers, students, parents and community members since June has discussed whether to offer Bible-based classes to Barrow County high school juniors and seniors. Read more...
3. Winder police arrested 12 students at Winder-Barrow High School in April and charged them with numerous drug charges. Read more..
2 . Tim Madison resigned in May as district attorney for the Piedmont Judicial Circuit, that covers Banks, Barrow and Jackson counties, following allegations that he and his wife, Linn Jones, forged Banks County timecards in 2005 and 2006 for 25 hours she never worked. Read more..
1. Felicia Williams Hill, 26, pleaded guilty in March to stabbing to death her two children, 9-year-old Elexis Nicole Hill and 4-year-old James Ross Hill, and to having hit her father, Charles Barnes, in the head with a vase. Read more..
Police and Courts (Josh Green)
Born and bred in the Hoosier State, I moved to Georgia in July this year after covering crime in metro Indianapolis. I was told I'd be busy as a cops and courts writer in the urbanizing sprawl that is Gwinnett. Y'all weren't kidding. Here's my pick for the top 10 police stories of this unforgettable - and historically bloody - year.
10 . Big trouble, little Suwanee
The city of Suwanee - long considered a sanctuary from urban crime - began 2007 with dose of bad news. Suwanee police reported the city's first murder since 1965 on Jan. 29. Police found the body of Debra Ann Glover, 43, of Atlanta, behind a Motel 6 on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road. Investigators said Illinois trucker Bruce Mendenhall, 56, confessed to the killing - along with murders in five other states - when he was arrested by Nashville police for allegedly killing a woman there. Mendenhall is being held without bond in Nashville. He pleaded not guilty to the killings in October. Read more..
9 . Pot-pourri
Early in 2007, the term "grow house" sprouted in news reports across metro Atlanta, and especially in Gwinnett. Gwinnett police made another serious bust March 8 - about $450,000 worth of marijuana - at a Lawrenceville home. The crackdown marked the ninth grow house uprooted by local police in a period of about two weeks. Following a series of indictments, the problem has apparently subsided. Perhaps it was nipped in the bud. Read more..
8. Blood sport
Was there a more ubiquitous word in the 2007 criminal lexicon than "dogfighting"? From "Saturday Night Live" spoofs to Whoopie Goldberg tirades, talk of the illegal sport surfaced everywhere. Gwinnett was not immune. Four men were arrested Sept. 7 near Snellville after an informant told the Sheriff's Department of a possible dogfighting operation at their home. Authorities found seven dogs and three puppies restrained in the backyard and remains of other dogs. Investigators said the dogs appeared to be involved in fighting, but charges were dismissed this month against three of the four men. The fourth man was indicted on charges of dogfighting. Read more...
7. Suspected Nazi flees
An 85-year-old Lawrenceville man accused of training attack dogs in Nazi concentration camps was threatened with deportation in early October. Federal authorities said Paul Henss, a German citizen, assisted in Nazi persecution of Jews, a crime punishable by deportation under U.S. immigration law. Henss failed to appear at a Nov. 13 deportation hearing in Atlanta. His family reported he had already fled back to Germany. Henss worked in the packing industry after coming to America, and he called the case against him unfair. Read more..
6. Taser talk
Tasers were a hot topic throughout 2007. The national debate over the safety of the high-voltage stun guns came to a boil locally. Norcross resident Carlos Rodriguez, 24, died July 25 after he fought with Sheriff's deputies and was Tased. A forensic investigator ruled in October the man died as a result of "excited delirium" brought on by the use of alcohol and cocaine. Earlier this month, Leroy Patterson Jr ., 41, died after he was Tased by Walton County Sheriff's deputies who suspected he had raped a woman. Toxicology tests are pending, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the case.
5 . Criminal cuteness?
Catchy monikers reigned in 2007. Exhibit One: Two former Gwinnett teens suspected of robbing a Cobb County bank in March gained national notoriety as the "Barbie Bandits." Prosecutors said Heather Johnston and Ashley Miller - both 2006 grads of Gwinnett schools - were videotaped wearing sunglasses and laughing as they stole nearly $11,000 from a Bank of America in Acworth on Feb. 27. The 19-year-old women were arrested two days later. Read more...
4. Shocking allegation
William Carter Gorman - a respected Lawrenceville pharmacist and city official - was arrested in July for receiving child pornography. Federal authorities said Gorman mail-ordered explicit videos featuring children at his Lawrenceville home. Gorman later resigned as treasurer of the Lawrenceville Downtown Development Authority. Gorman pleaded not guilty to the federal charge Aug. 14 in Atlanta. His jury trial begins Jan. 22. Read more , and more. .
3. College student vanishes
A mother's worst nightmare materialized when Justin Gaines mysteriously disappeared at a Duluth nightclub last month. The 18-year-old college student was last seen Nov. 1 at Wild Bill's. Gaines' family has raised a $50,000 reward for information leading to his return. Continued searches have yielded few clues to Gaines' whereabouts. Read more , and more..
2. Murder milestone
It was a bloody year in Gwinnett. The bloodiest in history. The county eclipsed its all-time homicide record on Oct. 19 when a 54-year-old man was shot at a Barnacles restaurant in Norcross. Police said the shooter acted in self-defense. The incident marked the county's 41st homicide of the year. The old record was 40, set in 2006. Medical Examiner Ted Bailey said Thursday the record has since risen to 50 homicides. Read more , and more....
1 . 'Madams' mania
Even Canada took interest in Gwinnett's biggest crime story of 2007. The saga of the internationally known "Mansion Madams" duo began Jan. 3, when police arrested former Penthouse Pet Lisa Ann Taylor and Nicole Probert for allegedly running a brothel in one of Gwinnett's most elite neighborhoods - the Sugarloaf Country Club. Taylor pleaded guilty in October to prostitution, keeping a place of prostitution and cocaine possession. She was slapped with seven years probation. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Probert on Nov. 13 - a token of appreciation for cooperating with investigators. Read more stories..
Buddy (Lamar) Ouzts
More on the mayors coming soon....