Sugar Hill holds hearing on budget

SUGAR HILL -- The Sugar Hill City Council held the first of three public hearings on its 2012 budget at its monthly meeting Monday night. And as City Manager Bob Hail often boasts, the entire $27 million budget was typed in black.

Gwinnett County's third largest city prides itself on financing none of its capital improvements, unlike cities whose debt has become increasingly burdensome as tax revenues shrink in a down economy.

"I'm very proud of this budget," Hail told the council. "I believe we remain one of about five percent of cities in the state whose budget is balanced and who have absolutely no debt."

Included in Sugar Hill's budget are expenditures for still most of its $11 million downtown city hall complex and $4 million street scape, including a retention/detention pond and amphitheater. The budget's other highlights include about $450,000 in road improvements, $170,000 for storm water management enhancement, and $400,000 for recreation upgrades, including additional restrooms and parking at Gary Pirkle Park.

The council on Monday also:

-- Updated residents on the downtown construction and city hall at West Broad Street and Temple Drive. With the pond and amphitheater well under way, construction crews recently began installing 408 foundation piers to support the two-story City Hall on a basement and its adjoining two-story parking deck. Having posed for the hall's formal groundbreaking on Nov. 7, council members Monday showed residents aerial photos of construction.

-- Announced plans to install a seventh severe weather siren on Suwanee-Dam Road between Johnson and Ramey Roads.

-- Clarified results the city alleges were mistakenly reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV following Tuesday's voting referendum on Sunday sale of beer and wine. City Elections Superintendent Jeanne Ferguson certified that the referendum passed, 612-141 votes, as well as that council members Steve Edwards, Marc Cohen and Susie Gajewski won unopposed re-election.

Ferguson said fewer residents voted on the referendum than expected. She said bi-annual elections in years where Sugar Hill's mayor is chosen (next in 2013) tend to garner 1,000-plus voters, but only 793 of the city's 10,068 registered voters cast ballots last week.

"(Sunday alcohol sales) was an issue people who voted on felt strongly about, but a lot of people didn't feel that strongly about it," Ferguson said. "Some said they voted for it because it was a good business decision for the city."