Editor's Note: We have invited all candidates in the to share op-eds with the community. Check back in with Patch over the following weeks for candidate profiles, op-eds, Q and As and election coverage.
Kennesaw is a city manager-run form of government. That means that the city manager and city staff run the day-to-day operations of the city. The mayor's job is to be the face of the city, promote the vision of the council and create relationships inside and outside of Kennesaw. The councilmember's job is to set policy based on listening to the citizens in our community.
A councilmember finds out what the citizens like, don't like, want and don't want and then communicates that desire to the city manager who will address the issue and get back to the councilmember. If needed, the council will set policy to address the concern. The councilmember's most important job is making sure the lines of communication between City Hall and the citizen are always open.
Each councilmember serves as a liaison to specific departments and reports back to the rest of the council on a biweekly basis. Since being elected two years ago, I have served as the liason to Economic Development, Planning and Zoning, The Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority and The Kennesaw Development Authority.
In that role, these are the things we have accomplished in the last two years as a city:
1. A $3.5 million at the Columns Project on Cobb Parkway and Kennesaw Due West Road. This development will be the catalyst for the remainder of the Kennesaw Due West Property. This project will bring approximately 15 new jobs to our community.
2. The Commons at KSU. This $21 million purpose built student housing facility is the first time the city, the county, the land owner, a private developer have all worked together as a team to fill a huge need as the university expands. Great care was given when considering the impact of this development to surrounding landowners. This project will bring approximately 15 new jobs to our community.
3. The Sanctuary on Cherokee. This $50 million mixed use project that will include a purpose built student housing component with 800-plus beds and 35,000 square feet of commercial space. The developer, the university and the city have worked beautifully together to address traffic concerns by coordinating in regards to shuttle service and bike routes. With this project, there will be major intersection improvements at McCollum and Cherokee and improvements to Cherokee Street. Those improvements will be the beginning of the Cherokee Street SPLOST improvements. The private developer is working diligently to relocate the current residents to new locations.
4. The Depot Park Master Plan has come off the shelf and has started to be developed. As the budget allows, we are chipping away at elements we can complete. The Community House has been moved, a new bus parking lot has been constructed. The Playground has been relocated. The Pedestrian Underpass has been completed. The Main Street Plaza connecting the underpass to Main Street has been completed. A storm water assessment is being completed as well as survey work. The next phase is to begin the new amphitheater at the Depot. The city has secured a $70,000 federal grant to assist with the project and is completing an environmental assessment for the park. SPLOST funds are dedicated to help fund the build out of the master plan. Discussions have begun with the current landowners to ask for input on the road realignments. These road realignments will address the other end of the Cherokee Street SPLOST improvements.
5. By cultivating relationships and sharing the vision for a livable, workable and walkable downtown, the Kennesaw Development Authority was able to assemble five acres on Main Street. The Main Street Assemblage was a collaboration of land owners, the city and the county. The Community Development Department is now in negotiations with a private developer for a public/private partnership on a parking garage and mixed use development that will house residential units and commercial retail space.
6. Without the relationships we have built with the County, Camp McDonald Park would not be a reality for this community. When the Development Authority assembled the property, Commissioner Gorham and then Chairman Sam Olens worked diligently with the city to preserve the 7.5 acres. We now have a group of excited city volunteers working with the county to see this beautiful passive park in the heart of our downtown. This is a true testament to our city motto, Honoring our Heritage and Forging our Future. The city is working closely with the county and foundation on the master plan for the park to ensure long-term coordination with adjoining development, road improvements and infrastructure improvements.
7. In an effort to drive a mass of people into downtown Kennesaw to showcase the steps we are taking to create the downtown our citizens want, the Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority will begin hosting Dinner at the Depot every Monday night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Food Truck Community will join us on Monday nights at the Depot. This will engage our local college students, our families and our community. The evenings will create a service for our community and work as a great marketing tool to introduce our community to potential restaurateurs.
8. As the economy has significantly affected the city budget, new and creative ways of subsidizing our programs here in the community became necessary. Out of that necessity the was born. The six 5k Road Races are put in the city on a standardized race route, by the city and benefit our city foundations. The road races cover all of the expenses for the police, public works and parks and recreation. The biggest benefit of the road races though is getting our citizens and their children out, active and exercising as a community.
9. In an effort to increase communication between our business owners, citizens and community at large the Kennesaw Development Authority, Kennesaw Downtown Developments Authority have created and are regularly sending out an electronic newsletters for those who opt in! This has really opened up a lot of conversations in the city! In addition, both Authorities have created new web pages to market and promote the city. Both Authorities have active business outreach and business retention programs to gain input from the business community to improve the business climate in the city and offer specific support.
10. With the opening of the Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority dedicated their resources to creating a beautiful entrance into the Underpass. The Plaza features benches, landscaping and is specifically designed to work with the special events that we do so well downtown. Additionally, the Kennesaw Business Association partnered with the KDDA to help offset the cost of the electrical work being put in. Another great example of our government working with our business community.
11. With the expansion of Trackside it became necessary to relocate the Wade Green Store out of the parking lot. We preserved this piece of history and moved it over to Adams Park. The Wade Green Store now sits amidst our very successful Farmers Market. The Farmers Market encourages our community to eat healthy and shop local. We have averaged 30 vendors and approximately 700-800 patrons per week for the last two years. The market continues to expand and has been recognize as one of the most vibrant markets in the metro area generating traffic and media coverage.
12. in downtown realized their dream this year. Trackside expanded and put on a rooftop patio with the collaboration of the Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority and the Departments of Community Affairs. Trackside was eligible through the DCA for a low interest loan to facilitate their growth. Trackside Grill is thriving in the community.
13. The Kennesaw Charter School had outgrown its space and was looking to grow. They found a piece of property they loved, but it was not inside the city limits. The Kennesaw Charter School approached the city and asked if they purchased the property if they could voluntarily annex into the city. They love their relationship with the city and wanted to continue after their expansion. The result is an $11.5 million, 100,000-square foot Charter School campus that not only fulfills the needs of the growing school but also honors the family who sold the property. The facility will be named the Nina Bostick Campus and honor the Bostick Family. The new campus will relocate the school form an industrial area allowing for industrial expansion, reducing land use conflicts and eliminating a significant traffic congestion problem.
14. We continue to focus on revitalization of the Cobb Parkways corridor. A new Chase Bank is being completed. A new McDonalds is being completed. King Liquor has opened in a revitalized a derelict property. Plans are under underway for redevelopment of the corner of Cobb Parkway and Jiles Road that will replace the current gas station a grocery store with a larger higher quality development. Metro bank is developing plans for a new bank fronting Cobb Parkway near the Kennesaw Due West intersection. Total value of these projects will exceed $13 million.
15. We continue to work with existing property owners and have helped recruit several new business to fill approximately 15,000 square feet of vacant retail space. New businesses have ranged from Lumbar Liquidators, vet clinic, printing shop, florist, and restaurant.
16. The city continues to enhance the Cobb Parkway corridor with landscaping at the Cobb Parkway and Old 41 intersection. This is being done through a $50,000 GDOT Beautification Grant.
17. Residential development was significantly impacted due to the recession in 2008. There were seven projects in progress that stalled. In the last two years we have worked with banks, developers and builders to reactivate five of those developments. Construction has resumed in four and a fifth will start later this year. Total new residential units to be added from these developments will be approximately 80–100.
18. Industrial development has been challenging due to the recession but we have successfully helped Beaumont Products expand with their purchase of a new building fronting Chastain. This was done through an annexation which added $3 million to our tax base and with assistance on road improvements.
19. In 2010, three new companies were recruited into the Kennesaw 75 Business park absorbing 80,000 square feet and bringing approximately 40 jobs. In 2011 we have added three new businesses that have acquired and/or leased vacant building totaling almost 100,000 square feet. They will add approximately 70 new jobs and $3-4 million in investment.
20. After a town hall meeting, a citizen brought up how Myrtle Beach South Carolina displays the check register for the city online. For the last two years the city has had the city check register online and open for all to see. Transparency at its finest.
21. A major focus has been on reducing the vacancy rate of retail, but we have added new retail development as well. This includes Kennesaw Pavilion which is a 13,000-square foot retail center on Jiles which is now fully leased with six new businesses. Next door, a new McDonalds has been completed and is open. Total value of these projects is approximately $7 million and will add in excess of 60 jobs.
22. The City has recruited a new start-up business which is unique. Burnt Hickory Brewery is a nano brewery of high quality craft beer. They are building out a space on Moon Station and hope to be in production the first quarter of 2012.
23. Three new restaurants have opened or will open in the downtown this year. They will add more choices and critical mass for dining in the downtown. They are Trinity Creole, Carpe Noctem Café and TJ Bryans.
24. A unique project is moving forward on Cherokee Street through cooperation of private property owner, KSU and the city. A four-acre community garden and KSU garden is in the development stages. They are developing a master plan and laying ground work for development of the garden in spring 2012. The goal is to develop a significant garden complex for education, display, and food for charities. KSU is strongly committed to providing resources to the project.
25. In 2011, the mayor and council adopted an Economic Incentive Program that provides a quantitative and qualitative structure and process for providing economic incentive to new or existing businesses and development that will have a positive financial impact on the city. This provides additional tools for the city to be competitive in recruiting and retaining business and investment.
26. The city continues to focus on strategic annexations that either allow for expansion of our commercial and industrial base or improves service delivery. Ten annexations have been completed in the last two years totaling more than 50 acres.
27. The city continues to explore opportunities to coordinate with the private sector on investments that will generate positive economic development. An example is the completion of the new intersection and signalization at Jiles Road and Kennesaw 75. This project was done as part of the the Jiles Road Phase I project but was funded by three private parties. $400,000 in private funds were provided for this project which will enhance access the retail and industrial properties making those more stable and viable properties. The city continues to look for opportunities to partner with the private sector on infrastructure improvements.
28. The Edge Connection, a non-profit small business incubator affiliated with KSU has opened a 4,000-square foot commercial shared kitchen for food entrepreneurs. The goal is to develop and nurture new food businesses that ultimately will outgrow the kitchen and develop their own space. The city and Kennesaw Development Authority provided support as a way to create new businesses and jobs.
29. The Community Development department has pulled all areas of the city together and is reaching out to developers and construction. To ease the process and clearly spell out the Vision for Kennesaw the Mayor and Council adopted the Uniform Development Code.
30. Working with local churches, the Dream Foundation, local businesses and community leaders Kennesaw now has a that is focused on our youth. The youth council works at the Teen Center and helps the other students with tutoring.
31. The KDDA has worked diligently for the last four years to increase communication with the citizens. The KDDA is responsible for the implementation of two city Marquee’s and way finding signs found around town.
32. The city manager and finance director have worked diligently for the last four years to prepare for the downturn in this economy. In September, the mayor and council approved a balanced budget with no furloughs, no decrease in quality of life or service loss. The Kennesaw city budget is lean. We are doing more with less than ever before and have amazing city staff to thank.
33. The City of Kennesaw recently celebrated the opening of a new ceramic studio with a ribbon cutting event attended by the mayor and City Council. The 1,300-square-foot facility is located behind the Ben Robertson Community Center, and provides much needed studio/classroom, glazing and firing space for community programs. The studio houses nine wheels, seven kilns, work tables, a glazing area, storage space, shelving for greenware and bisqueware, and an ADA compliant restroom. The ceramic studio was designed and constructed by staff from the Parks & Recreation, Public Works, and Building Maintenance departments.
34. With the long overdue transportation changes being made to Jiles Road, and public input sessions were held. Cobb DOT is in charge of the project, but worked very well with the city and our citizens. When concerns were brought up they were listened to and significant changes were made based on the town hall meetings.
35. Complete overhaul of the city website. By utilizing interns and streamlining the IT department, we were able to save tens of thousands of dollars on our city website. Additionally, by bringing the website up-to-date, we are much more effective in communicating with our citizens. The “Report A Concern” button on the website goes to every councilmember, the mayor, the city manager and the department heads. When a citizen leaves contact information, they are followed up with once the situation has been addressed!
36. are growing and creating relationships along the way from Betty Seigel to noted gardening guru and legendary football coach Vince Dooley. This year was also the benefiting Smith Gilbert Gardens. All proceeds went towards facility improvements, including repairs to the historic Hiram Butler House and construction of a much needed Event Building.
37. CALEA Certification—In 2009, the earned accreditation from CALEA (Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies), requiring putting policies and procedures in place to meet 463 standards, verifying their commitment to provide the best service for the city.
38. This year, your Parks and Recreation department was awarded the by the Georgia Parks and Recreation Asssociation. By utilizing sponsors and keeping costs down, your Parks and Recreation department provides our community an amazing quality of life!
39. As tipping fees increased, the city was faced with a very difficult decision: raise garbage fees or increase recycling in our community. A new sanitation ordinance was established with emphasis on recycling. The pilot program with rollout containers has tripled the amount of recycling done in our community and has allowed the garbage fees to remain low. You also now have the ability to pay for your sanitation bill online!
40. Keep Kennesaw Beautiful affiliate. Utilizing and collaborating with Keep America Beautiful to continue to make Kennesaw a beautiful place to live to work and to raise a family!
41. Worked with the county, the community and the police to shut down illegitimate pain clinics and protect our citizens.
42. New adult content ordinance.
43. New MLK event with Thankful Baptist Church.
44. Great relationships with county and school board and high schools and KSU, and others in region due to great work of our mayor.
45. Working with community partners and a volunteer group, the city was able to allocate land at Swift Cantrell Park for a dedicated Dog Park. The park was dedicated in honor of Dr. Frank Boone, a local veterinarian and community advocate who passed last year.
46. The Environmental Committee, in conjunction with local volunteers, completed the Children’s Forest in Swift Cantrell Park. The area features dedicated trees with permanent signage on each tree and a new fence to mark off the section and protect the young trees as they grow. An Eagle Scout built benches to keep in the park. Our committees, city and volunteers all working together.
47. While honoring our heritage and forging our future this mayor and council have dedicated existing city facilities in the name of community advocates who made our city great: Miss Olivia Smathers Dance Studio, The Ben Robertson Community Center, The Bobbie Grant.