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EARLY GREEN BUILDING. The 500-foot-long headquarters originally built for Simmons Mattress Company on a ridge above the Chattahoochee River is difficult to photograph. Here is an aerial view of the facility shortly after it was built in the 1970s. The building was most recently occupied by Fiserv. For a story about the building of that highly-recognized structure, see Today's Focus below. Photos by Alan McGee for Architectural Record.

Issue 14.71 | Dec. 5, 2014

:: Remembering Simmons Building

:: Unexpected pleasures, more

Ideas wanted for Simpsonwood

Waffle House, ArtWorks

Lilburn blueprint, SculpTour

:: Primerica, Inc.

:: Reducing concussions

:: Georgia's estuaries

:: Noone recognized RI house

:: Dangerous runway visitors


ABOUT US is a twice-weekly online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.

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Simmons Building architect reflects on his professional career
Thompson, Hancock, Witte Associates Inc.

Special to GwinnettForum
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(Editor's Note: By chance and Google, we heard from the architect of one of Gwinnett's most unique buildings, originally built as the headquarters for Simmons Mattress on a ridge overlooking the Chattachoochee River in what is now Peachtree Corners. That building went through several companies, and has most recently been occupied by Fiserv, which recently vacated the building and moved to Alpharetta. Here's the architect's personal remembrance of what happened to his firm after designing the building. -eeb)

ATLANTA, Ga., Dec. 5, 2014 -- Through the power of Google, I found the GwinnettForum article on the Simmons Building. It was the only comprehensive treatise on the history of the land I know about that building.


The only other source is from The Georgia Catalogue, by the late John Linley, professor at the University of Georgia's School of Environmental Design. In his section of the 20th Century, he touted the Regency Hyatt Hotel and Simmons Mattress headquarters in Norcross as being in the vanguard of the 20th century architecture. This evidently pleased him as he stated that "Georgia has rarely been in the forefront of architectural progress." He would have been pleased as the prestigious Museum of Modern Art requested photos for a display of contemporary design.

I have a personal interest in this story as I was the architect of record of the Simmons Building, and considered my relationship with Grant Simmons as a seminal experience in my life. Our firm, Thompson, Hancock and Witte, now enjoys a national and international practice thanks to Grant Simmons. There was a whole plethora of people that did not want the Chattahoochee River despoiled by having the banks of the river sullied and in-silted by another developer's building. These people sought to block the way for the endeavor chanting "NO, NO, NO, NO! in the press, in meetings and in any forums on the subject intentions of Simmons.

Aerial view of building.

It was a stressful experience for both Grant and myself, but in the end, the very resistance and that word "NO", actually turned out to be the Rosetta Stone key that helped us interpret NO as actually standing for "New Opportunity!" If one just understood "NO" was, in reality, the key to a significant epochal design. It forced an approach and outcome that was incredible and would not have occurred if anyone originally had said "Yes!"

There was a movie made on the history of the Simmons Building, start to finish, by a New York film company, entitled The Building At Jones Bridge, which to my knowledge won a Golden Eagle award for films in the category of "non-theatrical" venues at the Cannes Film Festival. I am interested in seeing if there are any original copies of this film. Since GwinnettForum seems to be the most prolific arena for historical items on the comings and goings in Gwinnett, I wondered if anyone had any knowledge of that film company's name that made many trips to Gwinnett?

A look at the exterior of the building.

Colorful structures with external views.

I have a very poor third print copy of it, but it is very grainy.

My association with Grant Simmons led to being introduced to John Imlay, who was trying to convince the U.S. Golf Association to move to Atlanta, to discuss the river property. Later on I was introduced to Harry Easterly via John, Harry being the executive director of the USGA. He eventually asked our firm to assess the land area to see how it could fulfill the USGA's goals using a new computer software program we had developed, called "The Land Wizard."

This showed the USGA what they could build on a property and how much each of various design options would cost them all without the expensive cost of a serious of design studies.

They liked the software program, but bowing to the pressure to stay in Far Hills, N.J., asked me if I would apply the program to the property that they had in Far Hills for "Golf House." That was how I was able to arrange for our firm to design their new corporate headquarters for United States Golf Association in Far Hills. That then began the opening of doors for our firm to do golf related projects all over the U.S.

Figuratively speaking, Gwinnett County was my birthplace as a professional. How blessed I was to live in that time.

Finding humor in unexpected places; and a writing assignment

Editor and publisher |

DEC. 5, 2014 -- At many gatherings, that is banquets, civic clubs and other public functions and even in the Congress, usually someone is asked to open the meeting with a prayer. It is something of an honor to be asked to give the invocation.


Those who give good prayers often work hard on them, not taking it as extemporaneous and off-the-cuff remarks, but a serious undertaking. However, it is seldom that the audience feels the need to laugh during such remarks, as most speakers hold the line to limited seriousness.

Not Wayne Sikes of Snellville this week when making the invocation at the Gwinnett Rotary Club meeting. He may be one of the few people who could speak this prayer, with his background of having attended both the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, where he graduated with an Industrial Management degree.

Here's Wayne's prayer:

Almighty God:

We thank you for the food served here today… such abundance when so many around the world are starving.

Thanksgiving was a time to enjoy food, family and friends.

Now we thank you for Christmas, a time for caring….a time to show our love for family, friends and those who are lonely.

We thank you for Rotary, for service above self, a chance to walk the walk.

Yes, we give material gifts, for there are so many in need.

But we can give spiritual gifts as well …. compliments and encouragements. Just a word can make another's day.

Lord, let this season make us kind, generous and loving, and most of all loving.

We thank you for love, and we thank you for silliness. Yes, silliness….and fun and laughter, which is our insulation from sadness and evil. After all, it is laughter that recharges our batteries.

What irony, Lord, in loving and laughing, that we become healthier ourselves.

In that spirit, Lord….let us offer a special request for our Bulldog friends. Give them strength, courage and patience, to endure 12 months of teasing and abuse which they so richly deserve.

Amen, and glory to God on high.

* * * * *

Yes, Wayne's opening prayer Tuesday was a unique way to open a meeting. Isn't it good to get a sudden jolt of laughter, when you least expect it?

* * * * *

How about an assignment for you today. How about completing the start of a short story?

Recently a grandfather was talking about his grandson. It seems the grandson, 11 years old, had an assignment from his teacher. It was to write a short story.

What had the grandfather going was the way the boy started the story, he delightedly told. You see, the grandson's beginning of his short story was simply this:

"The informant was late."

Wow! What a beginning. It is an opening sentence that grabs you. Note how simple it is, and how from these four words, all sorts of possibilities intrigue you immediately. No doubt about it, the grandson had a knack for using the right words.

So…..let's extend this grandson's beginning. We ask that GwinnettForum readers pick it up from there, writing us no more than 100 words to allow the story to take off in any direction you want. We'll print the best, and who knows? Perhaps someone might take off and write a complete short story or even a novel from it?

Send entries to, please. And get writing soon. It's not a long undertaking, though it might start your mind thinking a bit more.

Primerica, Inc.

The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring to you at no cost to readers. Primerica, Inc., headquartered in Duluth is a leading distributor of financial products to middle-income families in North America and is Gwinnett's fourth largest employer, with 1,700 employees.

Primerica representatives educate their Main Street clients about how to better prepare for a more secure financial future by assessing their needs and providing appropriate solutions through term life insurance, which it underwrites, and mutual funds, annuities and other financial products, which it distributes primarily on behalf of third parties. In addition, Primerica provides an entrepreneurial full or part-time business opportunity for individuals seeking to earn income by distributing the company's financial products. It insures more four million lives and approximately two million clients maintain investment accounts with them. Primerica is a member of the S&P MidCap 400 and the Russell 2000 stock indices and is traded on The New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "PRI."

Asks input from others about Simpsonwood property involvement

Editor, the Forum:

Yes, it appears things are booming in Peachtree Corners. Just wish that we could get some businesses to support our Norcross high basketball program. A woeful few have been involved with an ever-shrinking pool.

Living adjacent to Simpsonwood, I have always been intrigued by this wonderful parcel of land. Delighted it could be saved, and since I am no more or less egocentric than the next bloke…wondered about putting my passion, experience and contacts behind the Conference center and seeing if there was a way to get involved. It appears it may be too early to know what direction this is taking. Does anyone have thoughts on how to proceed?

-- Howard Hoffman, Peachtree Corners

Rant, rave, send us a letter

An invitation: We encourage readers to submit feedback (or letters to the editor). Send your thoughts to the editor at We will edit for length and clarity. Make sure to include your name and the city where you live. Submission of a comment grants permission for us to reprint. Please keep your comments to 300 words or less. However, we will consider longer articles (no more than 500 words) for featuring in Today's Issue as space allows.

Waffle House Museum to be open Dec. 6 in Decatur

Come celebrate the holiday season at The Waffle House Museum, site of the first Waffle House restaurant. The Waffle House Museum is located at 2719 East College Avenue in Decatur.

The Waffle House Museum will be open on Saturday, December 6, 2014 from noon to 3 p.m. to celebrate the 59-year heritage of a Southern icon during this festive time of year. Along with taking tours of the 1955 diner replica, guests can also make their own waffles and purchase a special, limited edition Waffle House mug ornament for only $5. This event is free to the public.

Pat Warner, Waffle House vice president of Culture, says: "Christmas is one of the busiest days of the year in our restaurants and has become a tradition for many families. The museum highlights where this tradition was born."

The holiday season goal is to provide customers with a unique and comfortable dining experience especially during the holidays. At every restaurant, the bright yellow sign welcomes Customers like an old friend, the jukebox plays a variety of Waffle House and Christmas songs and associates give customers a heartfelt greeting as they walk through the door.

ArtWorks Gwinnett seeks nominations for Fusion Awards

The non-profit arts organization serving Gwinnett County, ArtWorks Gwinnett, will recognize contributions made in the arts in Gwinnett at the fourth annual FUSION: ArtWorks Gwinnett Art Awards on Monday, February 2, 2015 at Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville.

ArtWorks Gwinnett is now seeking nominations to recognize the hard work of artists, arts organizations, arts educators, and corporate supporters of the arts. Nominations may be turned in online here. Nominations must be turned in by Monday, Dec. 15, 2014 at 5 p. m.

With the exception of Lifetime Achievement, nominations should cover the period of time from Dec. 1, 2013 to December 1, 2014, and the nominees must live in or work in Gwinnett County. All nominations will be judged by a panel of arts leaders from outside Gwinnett.

Bridging generational gap is focus of manufacturing growth lunch

Gwinnett Tech and Georgia Tech are partnering to present "Bridging the Generational Gaps in Your Workforce," a luncheon event in the Manufacturing Growth Education Series.

The event will be held December 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at The Busbee Center on the campus of Gwinnett Tech. The cost is $15 and includes lunch, networking, presentation, case study and Q&A. Manufacturing Supply Chain Council Members receive a $5 discount.

Dr. Hank Hobbs, Project Manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Georgia Tech, will be the speaker. Hobbs specializes in using his industry experience to assist manufacturing companies with leadership training and workforce development.

By attending this meeting, you will:

  • Learn how to create an environment that addresses the needs of all three generations currently in the workforce (Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y);

  • Understand how to motivate and communicate with different generations to reduce turnover and increase worker productivity; and

  • Decrease inter-organizational conflict while improving employee morale and the overall culture of each workplace.

Woodall to give keynote address at GGC fall commencement

Georgia Congressman Rob Woodall (R-7th District) will give the keynote address at Georgia Gwinnett College's Fall Commencement Ceremony. More than 300 students who have earned their degrees will graduate on December 18, at 10 a.m. The ceremony will be at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. A native of Georgia, Congressman Woodall serves the 7th district of GA in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Committee on Rules, the House Budget Committee, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He also serves as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee's Budget and Spending Task Force.

Lilburn's new blueprint directs economic development goals

The City of Lilburn now has a blueprint to help direct the city's goals for economic development over the next decade.

A strategic business plan was developed through a partnership between the City of Lilburn and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The strategic business plan defines clear directional goals and accountability measures as well as a shared vision for the community.

Mayor Johnny Crist says: "A strategic plan is required of any organization that desires to grow. Without a plan, it is easy to get mired in the mundane and lose sight of the goal. I am so proud of our council, which has formulated a five-year strategic plan that will help focus our time, energy and money."

The following goals were outlined and are accompanied by a detailed five-year action plan:

  • PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES through our code and ordinance revisions for development and redevelopment that facilitates economic growth.

  • PROMOTE all the positive characteristics of Lilburn by communicating to the public what is attractive about our city and all the progressive activities taking place.

  • FACILITATE decisions that effectively address the needs of the City of Lilburn through city leadership, City Council, and key staff. This includes taking an active role in residential, organizational and business retention as well as implementing this strategic business plan.

  • REINVEST our resources within the City of Lilburn to shape our budget process, purchase needed properties, redevelop neighborhoods, and support development including the effective utilization of general fund resources and the investment of tax dollars in target areas.

Suwanee seeking artists for 2015-17 SculpTour through Jan. 9

Suwanee SculpTour, an approximately one-mile walkable public art encounter, has brought 44 different art pieces created by 32 artists to downtown Suwanee over the past four years. In May 2015, a new batch of artists will be represented by the sculptures selected for Suwanee's fourth consecutive SculpTour.

Proposals from artists for the 2015-17 Suwanee SculpTour are now being accepted through January 9.

  • For more information, visit the Business Matters/Requests for Proposals page at

Artist Gregory Johnson of Cumming, whose work has been displayed in each of the three Suwanee SculpTours and is currently included in about 20 other public art exhibits around the United States and Canada, says he has gotten "tremendous spin-off" from his participation in SculpTour: Johnson sold two sculptures to Salude, a transitional care and short-term rehabilitation facility that recently opened in Suwanee.

Johnson says that he believes Suwanee's public art exhibit is one of the best in the country because of the presentation and accessibility of Town Center Park. "Suwanee has the park, amphitheater, restaurants, and shopping," he says. "It makes it nice. Some places have a City Hall, arts center, library, and park at which they exhibit art, but they're all a mile apart from one another. You end up having to walk 4-5 miles to see it. In Suwanee, you're able to scan the horizon and see several art pieces. It's intimate and well-planned."

Two years ago, the City received approximately 60 SculpTour proposals from artists. Typically, 12-15 pieces are selected by the Public Arts Commission for the nearly two-year exhibit.

Send us your recommended books, restaurants, movies

We're hurting without recommendations from our readers. Tell us what books, restaurants, movies or web sites have you enjoyed recently? Send us your recent selection, along with a short paragraph (150 words) as to why you liked this, plus what you plan to visit or read next. --eeb

Estuaries are ecosystems dominant and vital along Georgia's coast

Estuaries, where freshwater mixes with saltwater, are dominant and vital ecosystems along Georgia's coast. They are transition zones between river and sea and provide critical habitat for an assortment of plants and animals. More than 70 percent of Georgia's recreationally and commercially important fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish spend at least part of their lives in estuaries.

In general, an estuary is a semi-enclosed body of water with a free connection to the ocean. There, saltwater from the ocean is measurably diluted with freshwater from a river or stream.

Freshwater also may come from local storm runoff and groundwater. The major estuaries of Georgia generally connect with the Atlantic Ocean through large bodies of water called sounds, which lie between coastal barrier islands and separate them. From north to south on Georgia's coast, they include Wassaw Sound, Ossabaw Sound, St. Catherine's Sound, Sapelo Sound, Doboy Sound, Altamaha Sound, St. Simons Sound, St. Andrews Sound, and Cumberland Sound.

Saltwater in the sounds is diluted by freshwater from five major Georgia rivers that originate inland and flow to the coast: the Altamaha, Ogeechee, Satilla, Savannah, and St. Marys rivers. The Altamaha, for example, contributes freshwater to Altamaha Sound; the Ogeechee to Ossabaw Sound; the Satilla to St. Andrew Sound; and the St. Marys to Cumberland Sound. Some estuaries, however, may have little or no input from major freshwater streams. No large freshwater river, for instance, enters Wassaw Sound near the city of Savannah. Its freshwater sources include direct rainfall, local drainage, and groundwater.

Georgia's estuaries have formed integral relationships with tidal salt marshes. The marshes develop in estuaries where the rate of sedimentation equals or exceeds the rate of rising sea level. Tidal creeks link the marshes to estuaries. Together, the estuaries and the marshes are some of the most biologically productive ecosystems on Earth.

Sediment and nutrients are delivered to the estuaries by the freshwater rivers and by tides and currents from the sea. The mixing of nutrients, sediments, and water from land and sea creates a murky brown, biologically rich mixture. The enriched estuarine water flows into the marshes with the tide and nourishes Spartina alterniflora, or smooth cordgrass, and an array of other organisms. The marsh, in turn, produces huge amounts of food that flow back into the estuaries with the tide.

(To be continued)

Reflections on the holiday

Today's Mystery Photo is not something ancient, but a bridge decorated for the current Christmas season. You might have to unfurl the decorations to really recognize this bridge. If you think you know where it is, send your answer to, and be sure to include your hometown.

What? No one recognized the last Mystery Photo. We thought that would be an easy one. Sent in by Susan McBurney of Sugar Hill, it is located in Newport, Rhode Island, and was the summer White House occupied by President Dwight Eisenhower. Perhaps all the after-Thanksgiving work that piled up during the holiday, maybe that stopped anyone from searching for the answer from last week's puzzler. We hope you do better on the Mystery Photo this edition.

Watch out when landing

Though the photo is grainy, and taken at dusk, Roving Photographer Frank Sharp recently found these two deer wandering around inside the fence at Briscoe Field, the Gwinnett County Airport in Lawrenceville. Frank recognizes that "This could be an accident waiting to happen if the deer wander onto a runway."


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2014, Gwinnett Gwinnett Forum is an online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.


Prime professional office space

If you're wanting to relocate your professional office to the Peachtree Corners, Norcross or Johns Creek area, you need to see this space. It's located in Technology Park, offers 4,770 square feet, and has its own easily recognized, private entranceway in a well-maintained, attractive office location. There's plenty of parking, and the building is situated well back from the street, with the office overlooking a beautiful wooded area with lake. This office space should go fast, so call 770-925-0111 before someone else grabs it. Ask for Lisha Stuckey.

How Organized Football Should Act To Reduce Concussions

"…There is only one way to stop the concussions (in football) and that is to take the facemasks off the helmet. Look back….when they didn't have facemasks and notice they all tackled with their shoulders and arms. Nobody used their heads."

-- Former Atlanta Falcons Coach Leeman Bennett (1938 - ), quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov. 30, 2014.




(NEW) Tree Lighting in Norcross, Friday, December 5, at 7 p.m. Come enjoy this Norcross tradition with your neighbors and family! Carolers and festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. Santa Claus and many more surprises await kids of all ages ~ Fa La La La La....

Lilburn Parade Route Change: Because of construction on Main Street, the City of Lilburn has changed the route of its annual Christmas Parade, which will be at 10 a.m. on December 6. The parade will still occur on Main Street, but it will begin on Poplar Street instead of at First Baptist Church of Lilburn.

A Christmas Carol production will be presented at two times on December 6 at Christ Episcopal Church, 400 Holcomb Bridge Road in Norcross. Enjoy the play at 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. This full theatrical production is adapted from the manuscript that Dickens himself used in his public readings in the 1860s. For reservations, call 770-447-1166, or email

Duluth's 36th Annual Tree Lighting will be Saturday, December 6, near city hall and will kick off at 4 p.m. There will be activities including arts and crafts and other events before the lighting at 6 p.m. BB Harris Elementary and Duluth High School Chorus sing holiday classics. Santa and his reindeer will be present.

Sugar Hill's Tree Lighting will start at 5:30 p.m. on December 6 at the Bowl, behind City Hall. Anticipated among the activities will be ice skating, trains, music, food, hot drinks and the annual Tree Lighting, plus of course, Santa. The event will last until 8:30 p.m.

(NEW) Holiday Open House at the Tannery Row Artist Colony in Buford, Saturday and Sunday, December 6-7 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Two dimensional works include watercolor, oil, acrylic, encaustic, mixed, and a variety of drawing media. Three dimensional works include metal and paper sculptures, traditional clay and raku. The site is at 554 West Main Street in Buford.

(NEW) Holiday Party at Kudzu Art Zone, Sunday, December 7, from 4 to 7 p.m. See the artist's work, and listen to quirky classic rock from The Burning Sensations. Snacks, desserts and beverages will be provided by the artists.

(NEW) Water Conservation Workshop, at Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, Tuesday, December 9 at 7 p.m. Residents who attend will receive a low-flow retrofit kit, outdoor water efficiency kit, do-it-yourself home water audit guide and information on how to apply for the County's toilet rebate program. Residents can register for the workshop by sending an email with their name, address and phone number or calling (678) 376-6722.

Dinner Theatre in Sugar Hill, Thursday and Friday, December 11-12 at 7 p.m. at the Community Center, 1166 Church Street. Presenting The Crudgemuffin's Christmas Traditions is a humorous look at the silly traditions families can perpetuate, as directed by local playwrights Ane Mulligan and Michael Wright with revisions by co-directors Bob Seelig and Marty Snowden. The dinner theater is catered by Catering for Atlanta, and is a fundraiser for Players Guild @ Sugar Hill, one of the City's newest arts groups. Tickets are $35 and are available at

Marry or Re-Marry at 10:11 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2014, (that's 10:11 on 12.13.14, FYI) by registering to take part in a free mass wedding ceremony at Pinckneyville Park Community Center. The ceremonies will be conducted by Chief Magistrate Kristina Hammer Blum and Gwinnett Probate Judge Christopher Ballar. Couples must have a valid marriage prior to the wedding, or bring their original license and identification. More info: 770 822-8250.


1/9: Gov's inaugural party
1/6: Our continuing objectives

12/31: Fun board game
12/23: Good news on Cuba
12/19: CIA's atrocities
12/16: Muddy, hilly roads
12/12: Drop box regulation
12/9: On philanthropy
12/5: Humor, writing contest
12/2: Simpsonwood save is good

11/25: Snellville bell tower
11/21: Remembering Carl Sanders
11/18: Talmadge House
11/14: Churchill paintings
11/11: Hudson cruise
11/7: Why it was a GOP year
11/4: Another election a possibility


1/9: Jones: Black-eyed peas
1/6: Berlo: NLT's choreopoem

12/31: Leonard: Andersonville tour
12/23: Havens: Rotary club's charity
12/19: Aurora wins big
12/16: Yarber: Safe harbor bill
12/12: Arrington: Hunger challenge
12/9: Preston: Lilburn mural
12/5: Witte: Simmons Building
12/2: Putnam: PC's community study

11/25: Okun: Robotic bariatric surgery
11/21: Calmes: Special Nutcracker
11/18: Urrutia: Primerica scholarships
11/14: Jones: GGC's growth
11/11: Johnson: Tesla ownership
11/7: New Brenau joint degree program
11/4: Two shows of A Christmas Carol


Gwinnett Forum publisher Elliott Brack suggests that Gwinnett County needs a long-range list of continuing objectives for improving the county. Read more.

  • Development of a two-party system for county offices
  • Moving statewide non-partisan judge election runoffs to the General Election
  • Light rail for Gwinnett from Doraville MARTA station to Gwinnett Arena
  • Extension of Gwinnett Place CID area to include Arena and Discovery Mills Mall
  • Banning of tobacco in all Gwinnett parks
  • Making Briscoe Field a commercial airport for jet-age travel
  • More diverse candidates for political offices and appointment to local boards
  • Physical move of former St. Gerard's Catholic Church in Buffalo, N.Y., to Norcross
  • Creative efforts to support the arts in Gwinnett
  • Advancement and expansion of city and Gwinnett historical societies
  • Stronger regulation of late-night establishments with alcoholic licenses
  • Requiring the legislature to meet once every two years.
  • Development of more community gardens.

ABOUT US is a twice-weekly online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.

:: Contact us today
:: Subscribe for free
Buy the book on Gwinnett's history


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