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Norcross mayor pleased with state of the city

NORCROSS — Mayor Bucky Johnson addressed a large crowd of Norcross citizens, business owners and partners Tuesday evening as he delivered the 2011 State of the City address.

“We’ve got a lot to be proud of, a lot to brag on,” the mayor said.

Johnson, after thanking city council members, department heads and all the city’s employees for their hard work and dedication over the past year, declared that the 2010 budget was $400,000 less than the 2009 budget. Even so, no employees were laid off, no jobs were cut and no furloughs were necessary.

One of the recent accomplishments Johnson lauded Tuesday was the relocation of the city’s public works building from Jones Street downtown to Lively Street, allowing 56 new parking spaces to be built for city hall.

A new trash contract was negotiated for the city in 2010, costing residents about $11.25 per month, “the best value in Gwinnett County,” Johnson said. The city’s website was also revamped by city clerk Susan Wuerzner, and a welcome center was also opened.

The city’s “green” initiatives, the Sustainable Norcross committee and various eco-friendly awards earned by the city put Norcross on the cutting edge of sustainability, according to Johnson.

“We’ve really been recognized for doing the right thing and leading Gwinnett County,” the mayor said.

City parks are enjoying face-lifts and improvements, and Lillian Webb Park was officially dedicated last year. Streetscape and landscape projects are underway, and by late Spring or early Summer, $1 million worth of similar projects will begin or continue along Skin Alley, College Street, Jones Street and Cemetery Street in the city. A T-Grant will cover $800,000 of that $1 million.

“We’re an event city,” Johnson said, listing city concerts, the Farmers Market, festivals, the Art Fest and the city’s annual Independence Day celebration as feathers in the city’s “get-out-and-meet-your-neighbors” cap.

Police chief Dallas Stidd is investigating the possibility of creating a 911 call system for the city, rather than depending on the Gwinnett County system. If the efficiency can be measurably improved, plans will proceed by either outsourcing the service or making 911 a city-staffed service.

The granddaddy of this year’s accomplishments was the groundbreaking for the new Fed-Ex Ground Distribution facility, which should open in the fall. The 215,000 square foot facility will bring jobs and rejuvenation to Norcross and the surrounding area.

The mayor also attributed much of the city’s forward progress to the Gwinnett Village CID. Half of the city of Norcross lies within the district.

Johnson’s address closed with an original song written by a local businessman he met while walking into downtown shops to touch base with business owners. Steve Stevens, who wrote “The Norcross Song,” played keyboard and sang his song to the audience as guests mingled, enjoyed wine and hors d’oeuvres and celebrated the city’s successes over the past 12 months and into the rest of 2011.