Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Update Underway To Improve Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan for Fulton County, Georgia

/PRNewswire/ -Georgia's most populated county, home to just over a million residents and the state's largest city, is updating its FEMA-required hazard mitigation plan for local review and adoption in mid-December of this year and subsequent approval by FEMA. An approved hazard mitigation plan will allow cities to leverage federal hazard mitigation grant funds.

The Hazard Mitigation Plan update project is being managed by Calvin, Giordano &Associates (CGA), a consultant to the Atlanta Fulton County Emergency Management Agency, whose authority covers 14 cities as well as unincorporated Fulton County.

Nearing the halfway point, CGA planners are currently evaluating vulnerable structures and populations in Fulton County that are at risk from a variety of natural hazards known to threaten the area. Participating municipalities include Atlanta, Milton, Roswell, Mountain Park, Sandy Springs, East Point, College Park, Union City, Fairburn, Palmetto, Chattahoochee Hills and Hapeville.

CGA, according to the lead planner Beth McElroy, is conducting up to four joint planning meetings with the municipalities and the county in order to reevaluate the hazard vulnerability analysis, identify shortfalls, obtain critical information from new cities, assess any new areas that might need to be addressed in the planning process, refine/enhance the annual update committee review process and revise goals and objectives.

McElroy said as a result of growth and other recent changes since the plan was initially implemented in 2004, an assessment and reevaluation of the county's risks and vulnerabilities is necessary. This ensures that steps are taken to protect the community from the dangers posed by natural hazards and ensure that new growth takes steps to incorporate mitigative actions into future growth and infrastructure planning.

"Also since the last plan was completed, four cities have incorporated within Fulton County," McElroy added. "The task is to integrate the information from the more recent assessments with data from the planning sessions and to refine and enhance the current plan for final FEMA approval."

All documents and reports created for the county must comply with state and federal mitigation rules and requirements, federal planning requirements and project management capabilities.

CGA's Emergency Management Services Division provides local governments with multi-hazard disaster planning, response, recovery and mitigation services. The division enhances the preparedness level of clients in order to protect human lives, restore services and better manage response resources.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

City of Atlanta Receives Municipal Forestry Accreditation from the Society of Municipal Arborists

Atlanta is first municipality in Georgia; fifth in the nation

The City of Atlanta is the latest community to join a prestigious group of municipalities to be accredited by the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA.) SMA Accreditation is the highest honor for municipal urban forestry programs, obtained by following a professional approach to tree management.

SMA Accredited programs have a certified municipal specialist on staff, have an approved Local Forest Master Plan, are Tree City USA growth award recipients, show private contract preference for accredited tree care companies, adhere to industry standards for safety and performance, and adhere to SMA’s Code of Ethics.

“The SMA accreditation is yet another example of the City of Atlanta’s commitment to excellence,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “I commend the members of the city’s Arborist Division and the Office of Parks for their dedication and willingness to sharpen their skills and achieve the highest professional standards for the benefit of the citizens of Atlanta.”

The City of Atlanta is the first municipality to be accredited in the state of Georgia, and fifth nationwide, joining the cities of Aspen, Colorado; Glencoe, Illinois; Arlington, Texas; and Downers Grove, Illinois. The SMA accreditation is renewable every five years.

To obtain SMA accreditation, the Department of Planning and Community Development met the following requirements:

Program must have at least one ISA Certified Arborist (ISA certification requires a 4-hour comprehensive examination) on staff, with an ISA Certified Municipal Specialist preferred (a specialist is a higher level designation that requires passing an additional two-hour exam focused exclusively on municipal arboriculture).
Program must have a Forest Master Plan approved by appropriate local body.
Program must be a current Tree City USA (this criterion must be maintained annually to maintain accreditation).
Program must have a National Arbor Day Foundation Growth Award, in at least one of the past five years.
Program must show preference to Tree Care Industry Association Accredited tree care companies when private arborists are contracted.
Program must incorporate American National Safety Institute (ANSI) Z133.1 safety standards.
Program must incorporate ANSI A300 tree care performance standards.
Program must pledge adherence to the SMA Code of Ethics and to promote SMA objectives.

With a growing appreciation for the value of green infrastructure, communities across the nation are taking steps to maintain their trees, which unlike other parts of a city’s infrastructure, actually increase in value. A healthy urban forest provides many benefits for cities, including beautification, reduction of the urban heat island effect, reduction of stormwater runoff, reduction of air pollution, reduction of energy costs through increased shade over buildings, improved wildlife habitat, and mitigation of overall urban environmental impact. In addition, research has shown that city trees can improve real estate values, attract shoppers, improve worker productivity, reduce crime, reduce hospital stay, and improve children’s school performance.

“This accreditation recognizes the dedication that Mayor Kasim Reed and the city’s arborists have given to the City of Atlanta and the care of its urban forest,” said SMA President Gene Hyde. “By adhering to accreditation standards and following best management practices, your urban forest will continue to grow in value and benefit the citizens of Atlanta for generations to come.”

About the City of Atlanta’s Arboricultural Programs
The City of Atlanta Arborist Division is housed within the Department of Planning and Community Development, led by Commissioner James Shelby. The Arborist Division is responsible for trees located on private property. There are three field arborists (two permanent), conducting 3,500 – 4,000 site inspections annually. Six members of staff are International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborists. Of those, there is one ISA Municipal Specialist. He is one of five in the state of GA. One staff member is a Certified Tree Risk Assessor. The Office of Parks is housed within the Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs and has two ISA Certified Arborists on staff. The Office of Parks is responsible for trees located in city parks and other public space.

About SMA 

The Society of Municipal Arborists (www.urban-forestry.com) is a not-for-profit international organization of municipal arborists, urban and community foresters, members of tree boards, tree wardens, consultants, municipal officials, and students who are involved in the professional management of trees where over 114 million people live, work, and play. SMA leads the world in building the confidence, competence, and camaraderie of the family of professionals who create and sustain community forests.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

City of Atlanta Completes Neighborhood Stabilization Program Obligation Ahead of National Deadline

Department of Planning and Community Development announces milestone and looks forward to possibility of receiving additional NSP grants to address abandoned foreclosures

Atlanta, GA – With several days to go before the September 5 deadline, the City of Atlanta today announced it has met its Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) goal of obligating 100 percent of federal and state grant funds ahead of schedule. The City of Atlanta NSP is being managed by the Department of Planning and Community Development’s Office of Housing. Using NSP stimulus grants, the Office of Housing has acquired 143 properties, which include single-family homes and apartment complexes in NSP targeted communities.

Earlier this month the Department of Planning and Community Development announced the Office of Housing had obligated over 90-percent of its federal NSP grant funds and nearly 95 percent of its state allocation. On Tuesday, both funding sources reached 100 percent obligation.

“Meeting the obligation deadline ahead of schedule is a tremendous success for the City of Atlanta,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “The foreclosure crisis had a devastating effect on many of our neighborhoods and this program allows Atlanta the opportunity to rebuild communities hit hardest by it. Our NSP staff will now focus on renovations so that homes and apartment units can be ready for sale or rent in the coming months.”

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is a national recovery initiative designed to help cities address the foreclosure crisis by distributing grants to municipalities to acquire, renovate and resell housing units in areas hit hardest by the national foreclosure crisis.

“What we achieved would not be possible without the help and support of the community, our developers and the more than 250 businesses working with us,” stated Commissioner James Shelby, Department of Planning and Community Development.

The City of Atlanta is thought to be in the running for a NSP3 grant. An announcement is expected soon to identify which cities will receive NSP3 funding.

In 2009, the City of Atlanta received approximately $12 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and nearly $4 million from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for NSP. Using HUD guidelines, the City of Atlanta has targeted NSP funds to assist areas of greatest need, which include portions of zip codes: 30307, 30310, 30311, 30312, 30314, 30315, 30316, 30317, 30318, 30331 and 30354. These areas also are considered to have the highest percentage of sub-prime mortgage loans.

Interested homebuyers and renters are encouraged to visit www.atlantaga.gov and visit the Department of Planning & Community Development, then click the Office of Housing page. You can also call the Office of Housing at 404-330-6390 or send an email to OfficeofHousingNSP@AtlantaGa.Gov.