Lawrenceville will be one of the first Gwinnett cities, if not the first city, to offer Sunday voting for municipal election early voting.
These are the top stories from the past week.
Lawrenceville adopts Sunday voting for 2021 municipal election
Gwinnett’s county seat is embracing “Souls to the Polls” this year with the Lawrenceville City Council voting Monday to approve Sunday voting for this fall’s municipal election.
Gwinnett County has already embraced Sunday voting for county elections and offered it on both Sundays during the early voting periods during the 2020 election cycle, but its cities had previously not moved in the same direction.
Lawrenceville will be one of the first Gwinnett cities, if not the first city, to offer Sunday voting for municipal election early voting.
The early voting period for the Nov. 2 municipal election in Lawrenceville will begin Oct. 12 and end on Oct. 29. Voting will take place each day from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Lawrenceville City Hall, which is located at 70 S. Clayton St.
Under the state’s controversial election reform bill that was signed into law earlier this year, early voting had to be offered on two Saturdays during the advance voting period, but counties and cities had the option to decide on their own whether to do Sunday voting as well.
Two City Council seats are on the ballot in Lawrenceville this year, with qualifying set to take place from Aug. 16 until Aug. 18. One of those seats is the Post 3 seat currently held by Councilman Bob Clark and the other is the Post 4 seat that Councilman Keith Roches currently holds.
Roche announced earlier this summer that he will not seek re-election, leading to an open race for his seat. Austin Thompson, who has served on the city’s Downtown Architectural Review Board and “Move Lawrenceville Forward” Steering Committee, and who finished second in the voting for the Post 1 seat in 2019, has already announced plans to run for Clark’s seat.
Candidates will go to the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall to file qualifying paperwork for the election. The qualifying fee to run for a council seat is $306, and candidates must be a registered voter and have lived in the city limits since at least Nov. 2, 2020.
Gwinnett Sheriff's Office hands out about 2,000 book bags to children at Back-To-School event
Gwinnett County residents who attended the Sheriff’s Office’s Back-To-School event at Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville on Saturday got to see a lighter side of Sheriff Keybo Taylor.
The sheriff was dancing to Latin music as he handed out Banana Boat T-shirts and was smiling as he greeted kids and their parents.
“Just having a little fun,” Taylor said. “You can’t be all serious all the time.”
Sheriff’s Office officials estimated about 1,000 people had attended the two-hour event in its first hour alone. There was a line of about 500 people waiting to receive book bags before the event began.
The Sheriff’s Office had about 2,000 book bags to give to kids at the event.
“Starting at 9 a.m., there were already people in line,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Ashley Castiblanco said.
Taylor and Chief Deputy Cleo Atwater said the purpose of the event was, on the one hand, to give back to the community, but to also let the community see deputies in a non-law enforcement capacity.
Sheriff’s Office staff and teenage volunteers from various schools handed out book bags and supplies such as notebooks and colored pencils. Deputies and firefighters were also on hand to talk to residents about what the Sheriff’s Office and Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services does.
“Years ago, we started the concept of the community-oriented policing,” Taylor said. “(It’s) a concept that I just felt we never really put forward the proper resources to, but now this is something that we have and we have this opportunity to do this.”
There were also food vendors, a radio station, community service booths and private business vendors, bounce houses and raffle drawings for special prizes such as chromebooks.
In all, 27 sponsors donated book bags, volunteers, food, music, raffle prizes or other items to help the Sheriff’s Office stage the event.
Taylor said he also wanted to thank his staff for their work on the event as well as the sponsors and volunteers for supporting it.
“Shout out to how appreciative I am of my staff for putting this on and making this happen, all of the hard work that they put into this, the hours, the dedication,” Taylor said. “I also want to say ‘Thank You’ to everybody who had a part in making this event possible.”
The sheriff said engaging in community-oriented policing efforts, including the back-to-school celebration, is a way to help build bridges and trust between law enforcement and the public.
Trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve has been under particular scrutiny in the last year in light of high profile deaths, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, that involved encounters between police and citizens.
“For me, I feel like community-oriented policing is the law enforcement of the future,” Taylor said. “What better way to start than by having events like this where we can get out and connect with the public. The more and more that the public gets to see us in non-enforcement capacities, we have to do our part as law enforcement to renew those levels of trust.”
Atwater said the back-to-school celebration won’t be a one-time event, and ideas for next year — including the sheriff’s goal of handing out 10,000 book bags — are being talked about.
But, the back-to-school celebration won’t be the only event the Sheriff’s Office does to reach out the community either. The office has already done food drives and distribution events as well as partnerships with schools this year, and it is already looking at events that it can host this fall and winter, such as around Thanksgiving or Christmas.
“There are so many gaps when it comes to peace officer, law enforcement and the community,” Atwater said. “We need events to bridge those gaps and this is one of those events.”
Off-duty Auburn police officer Jacob Peek killed in head-on car wreck
An Auburn police officer and another Auburn resident are dead after a car crash in Barrow County over the weekend, the Georgia State Patrol said.
Officials said 25-year-old Jacob Peek was off-duty when he was killed in the accident, Daily Post news partner Fox 5 Atlanta reported.
There were a combined four passengers, who suffered severe injuries, in both vehicles, officials said.
Peek was an officer at the Auburn Police Department and formerly served in the Winder Police Department. He was a 2014 graduate of Winder-Barrow High School.
Shortly after midnight on July 17, Georgia State Patrol officials said troopers responded to the scene of a wreck in Barrow County.
Investigators determined the driver of a silver Ford Mustang, identified as Peek, lost control of his car on Carl-Midway Road and struck an oncoming black Toyota Corolla head-on. Investigators said they have not determined what caused Peek to lose control of the car.
Troopers discovered both drivers dead at the scene.
Three occupants in the Mustang and one occupant in the Corolla were hospitalized at Northside Hospital Gwinnett with serious injuries, officials said. None of the passengers were identified.
The investigation is ongoing with the assistance of the Georgia State Patrol.
A memorial service to honor and celebrate Peek’s life will be held July 24 at 4 p.m. in the Chapel of Smith Funeral Home, according to his obituary. The family will receive friends on that date from 2 to 4 p.m. at the funeral home.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Peek’s memory to the Auburn Georgia Police Foundation at 1361 4th Ave. Auburn, Georgia 30011.
Gwinnett planning $4.1 million sensory treehouse for Environmental and Heritage Center
Gwinnett County is planning to install a new tree house play area at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center that is designed specifically for people with disabilities.
County commissioners approved the $4.1 sensory treehouse, which is designed to let people with disabilities experience being in a tree canopy, at its meeting on Tuesday. The treehouse will be accessible to people of all ages and abilities, county officials said.
“The sensory treehouse will provide people the opportunity to connect with the ecosystem and challenge their senses,” said Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson. “It will help children without disabilities perceive the world as experienced by children with disabilities and the other way around by immersing them in nature.”
The tree will resemble an American chestnut tree in a nod to Georgia’s tree heritage. There will be a variety of textures, including smooth, rough, hard and soft, as well as light and dark and cool and warm surfaces on the treehouse.
Visitors will access the treehouse via a boardwalk that is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act as well as learning station nodes that are designed to let the visitors experience nature through touch, smell and sight. There will be video, audio and scents inside the treehouse to give visitors a chance to learn what it’s like to be in a piedmont forest and what it’s like to climb up into a tree canopy.
The treehouse will be located close to the ground, but it will be placed on a sloping landscape so visitors can feel like they are climbing high into a tree canopy.
Construction on the treehouse is expected to begin this fall and county officials expect it will take one year to complete.
Lichty Commercial Construction was awarded a contract by the county to build the treehouse.
Triple shooting leaves one dead at apartment complex near Duluth
Gwinnett County police are investigating a fatal shooting which left one person dead and two other people injured at an apartment complex in unincorporated Duluth Friday night.
The shooting occurred at the Parc Shores Apartment Homes complex located at 1122 The Falls Parkway at about 8:30 p.m., according to Master Police Officer Michael Evanko.
One male victim was found dead at the scene from at least one gun shot wound. Two other male victims who had been shot were found in the vicinity and they were taken to a local hospital to be treated for their injuries.
The condition of the two males who were taken to the hospital has not been released by police.
“Homicide detectives are currently investigating, and the Crime Scene Unit is processing the scene,” Evanko said. “Detectives are still working on the timeline of events that led up to the homicide.”
A motive for the shooting has not yet been identified and police have not released the names of the three men who were shot because they are still trying to contact next of kin.
Anyone who has information about the shooting is asked to call detectives at 770-513-5300 or Crime Stoppers, which lets tipsters remain anonymous, at 404-577-8477. They can also visit www.stopcrimeATL.com.
There is a cash reward offered by Crime Stoppers for information that leads to an arrest and indictment. Tipsters are asked to reference case No. 21-058098.
Application window open for 'boot camp-style' Construction Ready training program's upcoming Gwinnett session
A statewide program designed to help residents who are interested in getting training to do jobs in the construction field is enrolling people for its upcoming session in Gwinnett County.
The Construction Education Foundation of Georgia will offer a session of its free four-week Construction Ready program, starting Aug. 16, at HB Next in Lawrenceville. This is the second session the foundation has offered in Gwinnett County.
The program’s expansion into Gwinnett was funded in part by Georgia’s CARES Act-supported Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund.
“You don’t have to have any experience, you just have to have a desire to want to work in our industry,” said Veda White, the associate director for recruitment and student success for the Construction Ready program. “We’ll train you to get to work in the industry and hopefully get you placed with a job.”
The Construction Ready program is designed to help people who do not have experience or training in the construction field learn how to perform construction jobs. Participants are in classes from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday during the session, meaning they spend 20 days in the classroom and a Code of Conduct requires participants show up for class every day.
There are 20 people in a class who train together and they participate in lectures and hands on experience training.
“It’s fast-paced, boot camp-style training,” White said. “What we train in 20 days, it would normally take an individual three to six months to get the training and the credentials that we offer.”
Participants take a pre-test to see what they already know about construction and then undergo guided study to learn other information that they need to know to work in the industry. They will then take a post-test to make sure they learned what they needed to know.
“Each student gets to earn up to eight industry credentials that are recognized all over the world, so they can go work anywhere, they can go work in Atlanta or they can go to another state if they choose to,” White said.
Gwinnett County Commissioner Marlene Fosque worked to bring the program to the county to help residents who aren’t looking to go through a full college program in construction have an alternate training route to jobs in the industry. It was initially thought of as being a way to help students at Gwinnett County Public Schools’ GIVE Center East, but will be open to all residents of the county.
“I’m looking at, ‘How do we increase and have a skilled workforce in Gwinnett County,’ and you have to offer multiple options because college or technical school may not be for everyone, but here is another program,” Fosque said. “So this gives them another option.”
fosque pointed out there are a number of building projects taking place in Gwinnett County. These range from construction of new hotels around the county and the ongoing build out of The Exchange at Gwinnett in her commission district, to long-range projects such as The Rowen knowledge community and research park project that is expected to take decades to build out in the Dacula area.
“I see it as an opportunity when we think about the growth and we think about all of the different economic-type outbursts that we’re having in the area, when we look at The Exchange to other developments that are growing here, construction is definitely viable in Gwinnett,” Fosque said. “So, if this is something that someone can strengthen their skills sets and get the opportunities to work and build and develop here in Gwinnett, we definitely would like to encourage that.”
White said the first session that took place in Gwinnett County “went well” with all of the 11 people who participated in that session getting construction-related jobs after they finished the program. Overall, the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia has a 97% job placement rate for Georgians across the state who have participated in the Construction Ready program.
“We don’t guarantee jobs, but since Jan. 1, 2019, up until this last class we just graduated, we’ve had 100% placement,” White said.
Participants must be at least 18 and able to lift at least 50 pounds to be eligible for the program. Most people who have been charged with crimes in the past can participate in the program, but White said the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia does not allow people who have been convicted of crimes related to methamphetamine or sexual offenses to participate in the program.
Participants do have to be drug-free as well, and will be tested often to screen for drug use.
Anyone interested in registering for the program can do so by visiting constructionready.org/career-seekers/overview.
Gwinnett Stripers, Academy Sports+Outdoors deliver lunch, gifts to Buford area police and firefighters
Gwinnett Stripers Center Fielder Drew Waters was somewhat like a kid in a candy store as he met first responders Thursday morning.
Waters accompanied team officials and representatives of Academy Sports+Outdoors to two fire stations and one police precinct near Coolray Field to deliver pizza lunches. The group also handed out special Austin Riley bobblehead dolls to the first responders — dolls that won’t be distributed to the general public until the Sept. 4 Stripers game against the Memphis Redbirds.
“I think right now is probably the biggest time to really appreciate our first responders,” said Waters, who is considered one of the top prospects in the Atlanta Braves organization. “One is because everything that is going on throughout the world. You just see so much negative things going on and somebody’s got to the one to deal with those negative things, and those are our first responders that are constantly putting their lives out there at risk.
“And, they have families too so the fact that they’re out there protecting people like me and everyone else in my family — it’s just kind of hard to even think about putting yourself in their shoes.”
The purpose of the lunch and bobblehead giveaways on Thursday was to thank first responders for the work they did during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Gwinnett Stripers General Manager Adam English.
The group visited fire stations 10 and 24 as well as the Gwinnett Police Department’s North Precinct. These are the firefighters and police officers most likely to respond when an incident happens at Coolray Field, where the Stripers play, or at the Academy Sports+Outdoors store in Buford.
“We just wanted to thank the fire people and the police officers who have, even more so than their normal level of sacrifice and service to our communities, over the 2020 year of the pandemic risked their lives even more,” English said.
The concept of the Stripers and Academy Sports+Outdoors doing something together to thank first responders first came up in 2019. They decided there was a greater need for it this year in light of what first responders faced during the pandemic.
The Austin Riley bobbleheads are set to part of an Academy Sports+Outdoors Night promotion at the upcoming Stripers game in September, and it is designed to promote hunting equipment that the retailer sells by showing Riley using a a hunting bow and arrow.
“One of the neat elements of the promotion was to give back to first responders within our community and we are grateful to have Drew Waters join our little first responders caravan stops and it was exciting to integrate ourselves with the first responders in our community and to be able to get them an exclusive bobblehead before the public is open to it,” Academy Sports+Outdoors Senior Regional Marketing Specialist Cody Reid said. “It’s been a neat experience.”
And, the gesture was appreciated by the first responders. Waters spent nearly an hour talking to police officers, for example, about what they do and about baseball hitting techniques during the stop at the North Precinct.
As they talked, Academy Sports+Outdoors officials handed out some of the bobbleheads and Stripers mascot, Chopper, arm wrestled with a police officer.
The officer won by the way.
“We really appreciate it,” Gwinnett Police Lt. John Bailey said. “Anytime the community gets together and shows support for each other, it’s a great thing. We really respect all that these guys do for the community. That’s why we loved having them over. That means a lot that they’re behind us for what we do.
“We’re here for the citizens of the county and they’re part of that so we just really enjoy that.”
Sprouts Farmers Market announces special offers for upcoming store opening at The Exchange at Gwinnett
Sprouts Farmers Market officials announced special discounts and giveaways that will be offered to the first customers at its new location which opens next month in Buford.
The store at The Exchange at Gwinnett, which is located at the Buford Drive interchange on Interstate 85, is set to open Aug. 4. Sprouts officials said the new store will employ 65 people.
“From our made fresh in-house sushi at the deli to our organic produce selection with more than 200 items daily, I’m looking forward to introducing Buford shoppers to all the goodness Sprouts has to offer,” store manager Laura Martino said.
The first 200 customers who visit the store on the opening day will get 20% off their first purchase. In addition to that discount, every customer who comes by on the first day will receive a free reusable canvas shopping bag. Customers from the local area can also enter for a chance to win a $500 Sprouts gift card.
The store will be open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day.
In addition to the opening day offers that the new store will provide its first customers, it will also donate groceries to the Atlanta Community Food Bank through the Sprouts Food Rescue program.
The Exchange at Gwinnett, which is still being built out, has seen several openings this year, including a large Rooms-To-Go showroom, Andretti Indoor Karting and Games, Topgolf, Starbucks, Five Guys, Chipotle, Thrive Affordable Pet Care and Les Mains Nail Bar. It is also slated to have a food hall, several more restaurants and entertainment and recreation spaces, 1,000 luxury apartments, which are under construction, and a senior living community recently broke ground behind Sprouts.
Sprouts is located at the far end of the development, by the intersection of Buford Drive and Laurel Crossing Parkway.
Gwinnett sheriff's deputies arrest Dallas man wanted for crimes in several metro Atlanta communities
A Dallas man wanted by several law enforcement agencies in metro Atlanta was arrested by the Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Unit on Monday.
Deputies arrested Danquan Holt, 24, with assistance from the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office and Paulding County Probation in Dallas. Holt, who was wanted on aggravated assault and aggravated battery charges in Gwinnett, is being held without bond in the Gwinnett County Jail.
He is also wanted on warrants for his arrest that are outstanding in Dallas as well as DeKalb and Cobb counties.
“GCSO Fugitive deputies met with deputies of the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office and officers with Paulding County Probation,” Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office spokesman Nathan Person said. “A plan was devised to take Holt into custody. Through coordination with all three agencies, Danquan Holt was taken into custody in the breezeway of an apartment building in Dallas, Ga, without any incident.”
The other warrants that Holt is wanted out are as follows:
DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office
♦ Family Violence Battery
Cobb County Sheriff’s Office
♦ Fleeing or Attempting to Elude
♦ Driving on Suspended License
♦ Driving without license on person
Dallas Police Department
♦ Providing False Name or DOB
♦ Tampering with Evidence
USG data shows Georgia Gwinnett College has a more than $500 million impact on the local economy
Georgia Gwinnett College and local officials have long touted the college’s importance to Gwinnett County and the latest economic impact numbers form the University System of Georgia show just how important the school is.
The college’s impact on the local economy totals up to half-a-billion dollars, or more than $508 million to be exact, according to the university system. GGC officials were highlighting that number Tuesday.
“GGC continues to be a significant contributor to the economy of Gwinnett County and the surrounding region,” GGC President Jann L. Joseph said in a statement. “As the county grows, GGC is excited to be part of that growth.”
The University System of Georgia looks at several factors when determining a school’s economic impact, and the latest economic impact looks at data collected between July 2019 and June 2020. The overall university system had an economic impact of $18.6 billion in Georgia during that time period.
Factors that the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth looks at for the report includes the number of jobs created, both on campus and in the community, by the school’s presence, as well as the number of alumni it has working in the local area.
In GGC’s case, the USG said it has created 3,834 jobs. That includes 799 on campus jobs and another 3,035 jobs in the surrounding community.
GGC also has more than 9,000 alumni who are living, working and serving communities in Gwinnett and elsewhere, according to the university system.
GGC officials said that, when capital outlay for building projects it has undertaken over the years is added in, the college has had a $4.8 billion economic impact over a period spanning more than a decade.
“With each graduating class, GGC’s full impact is expressed in important ways throughout the region and beyond,” Joseph said. “Our alumni are our true legacy.”
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