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Suwanee in A 'Sweet' State

Numbers in the city's favor as mayor prepares for State Of The City speech.

Suwanee Mayor Dave Williams said in a recent YouTube video that the city was in a "sweet spot."

He's likely to say the same thing this week in the annual State Of The City address. And the numbers bear him out.

In a recent national public opinion survey, Suwanee ranked highly among cities in its population class in several key areas, including public opinion.

And with an unemployment rate of about 4 percent compared with much higher figures statewide and nationally,  the city's economy is holding up well.

When Williams makes what could be his last State Of The City address Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., at , it also will mark 10 years since the city passed a $17.7 million bond issue. And that period has seen the city add five parks from those funds that have contributed much to that favorable public opinion. Also, Suwanee twice was named as one of America's top places to live (2007, '09) by Money magazine during this time.

Suwanee last conducted the National Citizen Survey through the National Research Center in 2008, and the two years since were marked by a recession. "We were concerned" about how residents would react, said Amie Sakmar, the city's director of financial services. "We were quite (pleasantly) surprised."

A total of 334 surveys were completed by residents, an overall response rate of 30 percent. This was within the national benchmark of 25-40 percent.

In general, the NRC noted that overall quality of life was rated as "excellent" or "good" by 95 percent of the respondents.

Sakmar noted that two areas where Suwanee stood out were natural preservation and the job that government is doing in welcoming citizen input. For example, about 80-100 people turned out on a Saturday morning in January at City Hall for a hearing on historic preservation, despite the fact that ice and snow was still on the ground from the crippling snowstorm of earlier that week.

In welcoming citizen input, Suwanee ranked No. 1 nationally (among jurisdictions of 40,000 or less population), up from 55th in 2008. The city also ranked No. 1 in preservation of natural areas/open space, up from No. 3 in 2008.

The city has $300,000 left from the 2001 bond funds, and it generally is targeted to improving the Suwanee Greenway trail.

The five parks constructed with the bond funds are Town Center, Suwanee Creek Park, PlayTown, Sims Lake, and White Street.

In the past 10 years, population has grown from 9,100 to 16,692, and per capita public debt has dropped from $1,742 to 881.

The State Of The City speech is part of the regular February City Council meeting. The speech was rescheduled from January, due to the ice/snow storm that shut down Suwanee and the surrounding area.

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For the agenda of Tuesday's council meeting, click here: http://www.suwanee.com/upload/agenda-20110222-2.22.11%20CM%20Agenda.pdf

For more information on Suwanee government and services, visit the city's Web site: www.suwanee.com.

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