10/10: On Machu Picchu; Gwinnett model train set; Estate taxes

GwinnettForum  |  Number 17.52 | Oct. 10, 2017

MACHU PICCHU in Peru is becoming a favorite site for lots of people to visit. Check out how one person found this ever-so-high destination to be in Today’s Focus below.


TODAY’S FOCUS: Here’s a Breath-Taking Account of a Visit to Machu Picchu, Peru
EEB PERSPECTIVE: Snellville Resident Selling Model Trains Layout and Plans History Book
ANOTHER VIEW: Federal Estate Taxes Affect Only the Richest of the Rich
SPOTLIGHT: Hayes Family Automotive Group
UPCOMING: STEAM Activities Scheduled for Duluth on Friday Night
NOTABLE: Sheryl Dallas To Become Gwinnett Human Resources Director
RECOMMENDED: Origin by Dan Brown
GEORGIA TIDBIT: Three Confederate Ships Bear the Name Savannah During Civil War
TODAY’S QUOTE: What Horses Have That People Do Not Have
MYSTERY PHOTO: Not Your Ordinary Building for Today’s Mystery Photo
CALENDAR: Bird Club Plans Auction on October 16


Here’s a breathtaking account of a visit to Machu Picchu, Peru

By Ellen Gerstein, Lawrenceville, Ga.  |   Being an avid hiker and lover of culture, one of the places on my “bucket list” I always wanted to explore, was Machu Picchu, Peru.  It turned out Peru was everything that I thought it would be and so much more.  


Below are some of the highlights.

Peru had a lot of ancient history to explore.  We saw archaeological relics that had been unearthed, dating back to 1400 BC.  Also, seeing their rich history through the eyes of a modern Incan descendant, who was our tour guide, was very enlightening.  

Machu Picchu ruins exist because the Spanish Conquistadors didn’t discover it and destroy it like they did so many other Incan sacred grounds.  Machu Picchu was discovered by an American explorer and professor, Hiram Bingham in 1911.  

All the pictures you have seen of this “lost city of the Incas” can’t create the feeling of awe and wonder that you get when you are standing on the mountain overlooking the city.  Many other archeological sites continue to be uncovered by explorers in Peru.  

The grandeur of them all, surrounded by the majestic beauty of the Andes, took my breath away (literally because of the elevation of 7,972 feet above sea level, and figuratively, too).  Cocao tea was offered in all the hotels and in the markets as the local remedy for altitude sickness!  I preferred modern medicine and wore a motion sickness patch.

We rode “the Orient Express” train from Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu pueblo.  It was a magnificent train ride.  The train had windows all around, which provided a 360-degree view of the Andes Mountains.  

Just like I saw in Spain, Catholic Churches have replaced many Inca temples.  They are majestic structures with beautiful religious art, standing on the grounds of these ancient ruins.  Moorish and baroque styles dominated these beautiful houses of worship.  You could feel God’s presence, whether you believe in the Christian Deity or Inca ones.  

Many Peruvians still live as their forefathers did, wearing traditional garments, farming the land by oxen, weaving alpaca goods, herding animals, etc.  I was amazed to see the contrast between modern society in the capital city of Lima and ancient civilizations still in practice in cities like Cusco!

One thing that really stood out in the smaller cities, were the “street dogs.”  Three thousand dogs wander the streets of Peru, in search of food.  But, believe it or not, they did not bother anyone, were friendly when petted, and were very good looking animals.  I would have put one in my suitcase, if I could.

Peru is also known for its fine cuisine.  Guinea Pig is the national delicacy, favored for celebrations and special occasions.  I didn’t try it, but did have Alpaca one evening.  It was delicious, tasted like very lean steak.  Quinoa is also a staple and served as a side dish, in soup, and salads.  They are also known for their raw fish dishes, called Ceviche.  This was served with a strong lime juice, with a side of sweet potato and very large kernelled corn.  Very tasty!

There was so much to see and do in Peru.  I took lots of pictures.  I will gladly show them to anyone, bringing back all the great memories of a trip of a lifetime.  One week was not long enough, only giving me a glimpse and longing to go back!


Snellville resident selling model trains layout and plans history book

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher   |  If you are into model railroading, you might be interested in what Jim Cofer of Snellville is doing this weekend.

Over the last 13 years, Jim has used his basement to house his own 12×16 foot O-scale, 3-rail model train layout. If you remember the Lionel toy trains, that’s the O Gauge model trains which he has. But they are not toys. One of the more sophisticated model engines can be priced as much as $2,500. His system has remote controls, comes with scale-model depots, grain elevators, roundhouses and other buildings.

Altogether, he has 17 engines, over 100 freight cars, such as auto and coal carriers, refrigerated cars, others that were built to haul pulpwood, or building supplies, and plain box cars. He has Southern Railway and Norfolk Southern passenger trains, as well as an old Pennsylvania Railroad rounded-end Pullman car. Model Amtrak passenger trains are included in his stock.


Jim’s auctioning off his model railroad this weekend, trying to recoup some of the $20,000 he has in it.

He’s always loved railroading, since a kid, when he enjoyed seeing his Lionel engine and cars tooting around in a circle under the family Christmas tree.

But why is he getting out of model railroads now?  “We’re trying to downsize next year, and we figure it’ll be hard to sell a house with a train layout in it. So this is one of the first steps toward downsizing. I’ve had a great time with the layout, putting it all together, but as I get older, I’m running out of time and flexibility.”

Jim’s always liked trains. Back in 2003 he took a month-long trip on Amtrak around the country, going first to Washington D.C, and the east, then to Chicago, on out west and even into Vancouver and onto the mountains of Alberta, then to Southern California, and eventually home.  

“You see the different topography of the country, and note the different people.  You see casually-dressed Southerners getting on in New Orleans, you see in Boston business people wearing three piece suits with their computers, and from Minnesota to Seattle, you see ranchers and Indians.  It’s a different clientele depending on which part of the country you are in.”

But, he adds, you see “the ugly back side of life, gang graffiti, trash piles, old buildings, and man, do the rails rattle your teeth in switchyards. Too, freight trains are always coming at you, and passenger trains can sit on a siding for two or four hours to give the freights the right of way. All the major rail lines  are owned by the big railroads, and Amtrak just rents the track from them.”

JIM’S INTO ANOTHER PROJECT: writing a book about 200 years of Snellville history. He’s got it mostly finished, after working on it for six years. The Snellville Historical Society has commissioned him to produce the book.

He’s uncovered lots of history not available before, including letters from one of the two persons who founded Snellville, James Sawyer.  “We ran across a descendant in Florida who knew something about the history of the Sawyer family, including having two generations of birth certificates showing who Sawyer’s parents and grandparents were, plus seven siblings . It was stuff we didn’t know about”.

Cofer hopes to complete and print  the book and possibly to have it out in early 2018. Profits from the book will go to the Snellville Historical Society.


Federal estate taxes affect only the richest of the rich

By George Wilson, contributing columnist  |  One of the proposals in the Trump/Republican tax plan is to eliminate the inheritance or estate tax. Perhaps they are inspired by the large number of wealthy plutocrats in the cabinet and their wealthy donors.

From a total fiscal standpoint the estate tax is only modestly important at best — it really only applies to couples whose assets exceed $10.9 million but haven’t bothered to  hire competent estate planners (meaning only approx 0.14 percent of estates pay it).  However, it is morally and socially significant particularly if you are fond of democracy and dislike oligarchy.

As De Tocqueville wrote nearly 180 years ago in praising the USA for the wisdom of heavily taxing or blocking inherited wealth and thus avoiding the sclerotic disease of Europe, hereditary aristocracy: “No great change takes place in human institutions without involving among its causes the law of inheritance. When the law of primogeniture obtained in the South, each family was represented by a wealthy individual, …surrounded, as by parasitic plants, by the other members of his family, ……No sooner was the law of primogeniture abolished than …families were …reduced to a state in which labor became necessary to existence;” (Democracy in America, 1838, Chapter 18.)

The wealthy have since nearly succeeded in resurrecting aristocratic status and power via corporate, estate and trust law, with the bonus that modern financial instruments allow all members of the family to equally feed at the ancestral trough. Those who really want tax reform would be wise to reject repeal utterly and contemplate instead raising taxes dramatically on estates and allowing far fewer avenues of evasion.

Finally, after working with focus groups, the Republicans and other right-wing organizations changed the name of the Inheritance tax /estate tax to “Death Tax,” because it would poll better. Also, in reality, the estate tax only affects a few thousand families in the entire country, almost all of them among the richest of the rich.


Hayes Family Automotive Group

The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring GwinnettForum.com to you at no cost to readers. Today’s sponsor is Hayes Family Automotive Group with Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC. Mike, Tim and Ted Hayes of Lawrenceville and Gainesville with Terry Hayes of Baldwin invite you into their showrooms to look over their line-up of automobiles and trucks. Hayes has been in the automotive business for over 40 years, and is North Georgia’s oldest family-owned dealership. We know that you have high expectations, and as a car dealer we enjoy the challenge of meeting and exceeding those standards each and every time. Allow us to demonstrate our commitment to excellence! 


Send us your thoughts

We encourage you to send us your letters and thoughts on issues raised in GwinnettForum.  Please limit comments to 300 words.  We reserve the right to edit for clarity and length.  Send feedback and letters to:    elliott@brack.net


STEAM activities scheduled for Duluth on Friday night

Cooler days may be ahead but STEAM will heat things up with lots of fun activities for the community to enjoy. The evening of Friday, October 13 will be filled with the wonders of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) to be enjoyed by all ages  in Downtown Duluth. The fun begins at 6 p.m. and continues to 9 p.m.

This year, all schools from the Duluth cluster will take part in the event; which has grown considerably the last few years. Each project at each grade level aligns to the first nine weeks curriculum. The projects are driven by science and mathematics with humanities and arts woven into each unit. These projects will be showcased on Duluth Town Green.

Some of the projects you can expect to see:

  • Tiny home models that use renewable and nonrenewable resources to conserve energy.
  • The creation of petri dish art based on the use of bacteria growth, using kill zones to create the artistic aspect.
  • The challenge to create a mode of transportation using only air, water, rail, or road; to move goods from one location to another.

As part of the ART portion of the event, the Duluth Fine Arts League will host an Art Walk in Parsons Alley. There, residents will find artists showcasing their work along with live music and other fun activities. Life-sized games such as Checkers, Chess and Connect 4 can be found throughout the event.  Food Trucks will also be there to satisfy any cravings.

Peachtree Corners website judged tops by national web organization

Its tagline is “Innovative and Remarkable.” Apparently so is the Peachtree Corners website.

The city of Peachtree Corners has received the 2017 Pinnacle Awards Competition for best website by the National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW). The organization selects winners by category based on population. The City of Peachtree Corners took top honors for the 40,001-95,000 population category.

The awards are judged by a group of web professionals inside and outside of the government web industry and are awarded based on specific criteria that included content, organization, design, performance and flexibility, responsive design, accessibility standards and interactivity.

The announcement that the city of Peachtree Corners had been selected as the winner for its category was made on September 21 during the NAGW’s organization’s awards banquet at its annual conference held in San Diego, California.


Dallas to become Gwinnett human resources director


Sheryl Dallas has been appointed Human Resources director for Gwinnett County. Administrator Glenn Stephens made the appointment. Dallas will replace HR Director Scott Fuller, who has retired after a long career with the county. Dallas, whose appointment is effective immediately, has served as deputy director since 2015. She came to Gwinnett with extensive experience in HR and benefits administration at Miami-Dade County, the Atlanta Housing Authority, Fulton County and Association County Commissioners of Georgia in addition to work for two national public-sector consulting firms. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Public Administration from Texas Tech.

Wiemann wins President’s Award from animal control group


 Cindy Wiemann, assistant manager of the Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Division, recently received the President’s Award from the Southeastern Animal Control Association, the group’s highest honor.

Martha Ann Coe of Terrell County and president of the Southeastern Animal Control Association says:“Cindy’s hard work and dedication embodies the mission of the Southeastern Animal Control Association. She is totally an advocate for the safety and well-being of all animals. Cindy has drive like no one else I’ve ever seen. She’s a valuable asset to the animal welfare community.”

Wiemann has been an animal control officer for 18 years, rising from a road officer to a shelter manager. She is president of the Georgia Animal Care and Control Board of Directors and has been elected to the board of directors of the National Animal Care and Control Association, where she serves as treasurer. 

Wiemann joined Gwinnett County in March 2016. Before that, she spent 17 years as animal control officer for the city of Madison. She also served as a veterinarian’s assistant.

Jackson EMC Foundation grants in Gwinnett total $68,733

A $15,000 Jackson EMC Foundation check to the Hi-Hope Service Center will help fund nursing and nutrition services for disabled residents. At the check presentation are (from left): Chief Development Officer Kevin Fenton, Jackson EMC Foundation board member Beauty Baldwin, Health Services Manager Lori Macalady and Gwinnett District Manager Randy Dellinger.

The Jackson EMC Foundation board of directors awarded a total $119,233 in grants to organizations during their September meeting, including $68,733 to organizations serving Gwinnett County. They include:  

  • $15,000 to Hi-Hope Service Center in Lawrenceville to help fund part-time nursing and nutrition services for 20 developmentally disabled residents from Gwinnett and Barrow counties.
  • $15,000 to Junior Achievement of Georgia for program materials, support materials and supplies, and program development to provide the JA Biztown and JA Finance Park interactive programs at Discovery High School to more than 30,000 Gwinnett County middle school students.
  • $14,985 to Boy Scouts of America, North Georgia Council, serving all Jackson EMC counties for underprivileged youth, to provide uniforms, handbooks and summer camp fees.
  • $13,248 to Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse, a Stone Mountain nonprofit organization that helps individuals recovering from traumatic brain injury to regain employment and living skills.
  • $10,500 to Asian American Resource Foundation of  Gwinnett that provides supportive services to members of the community in need


Origin by Dan Brown

Reviewed by Karen Burnette Garner, Dacula  |  Author Dan Brown’s latest book continues the story of Professor Robert Langdon, and a mysterious invitation from the world’s top futurist.  The former student of Langdon has made a monumental discovery explaining where life began, and even more astounding, where we are going as a human race.  The elaborate plans of the futurist to alert the world threaten the roles of faith and belief, and there are those who would want to stop him. You will be questioning your own views of the future after reading this book!

An invitation: what books, restaurants, movies or web sites have you enjoyed recently? Send us your recent selection, along with a short paragraph (100 words) as to why you liked this, plus what you plan to visit or read next. –eeb


Three Confederate ships bear the name of Savannah in Civil War

Over the course of the Civil War (1861-65), three different fighting ships of the Confederate navy were given the name Savannah. All three ships saw only limited action along the Georgia coast during the war.

The first ship to carry the name Savannah, a 53-ton schooner, was converted to an Atlantic Coast privateer after hostilities began in 1861. The ship was lightly armed with a single 18-pounder cannon, of War of 1812 (1812-15) vintage, that had been converted into a rifled gun. The  privateer Savannah took one merchant ship as a prize of war before being captured by the brigadier USS Perry after two weeks of service. 

The second ship to carry the name, the gunboat Savannah (later called Old Savannah), was originally a side-wheel steamer named Everglade. It was built in 1856 at New York and purchased early in 1861 by the state of Georgia to be converted into a gunboat for coastal defense. With a moderate 406-ton displacement, this Savannah was armed with a single 32-pounder cannon. Under the command of Lieutenant J. N. Maffitt, the Savannah was attached to the squadron of Flag Officer Josiah Tattnall, charged with the defense of Georgia and South Carolina. Tattnall’s command of gunboats was so small that he dubbed it the “Mosquito Fleet.” The tiny flotilla, which consisted of three converted tugs (the Resolute, Sampson, and Lady Davis) and a converted harbor craft (the Savannah) was no match for Union ships on the open sea, but the shallow draft of the small ships gave them a movement advantage in inland waters.

On November 5-6, 1861, the CSS Savannah, in company with the Resolute, Sampson, and Lady Davis, fought vessels from a much larger Union fleet of 51 ships under Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont. The fleet was preparing to attack Confederate positions at Port Royal Sound, S.C., between Savannah and Charleston. On November 7 the Savannah again briefly engaged with Union ships as they bombarded Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard. When this token defense was driven off by the Union fleet, Tattnall failed in his attempt to join the garrison at Fort Walker. The Savannah returned to the city of Savannah to repair damages, allowing the unopposed Union fleet to successfully take Port Royal and the town of Beaufort.

On November 26, 1861, Tattnall led the Savannah, Resolute, and Sampson, from Fort Pulaski to the mouth of the Savannah River, where the flotilla once again attacked the much larger force of Union vessels stationed there. The Savannah’s attack caused no damage but did force the Union fleet to operate with caution in the following months. On January 28, 1862, Tattnall ran his three ships through a “gauntlet” of 13 Union gunboats to provision Fort Pulaski. Fortunately for the Confederates, Union batteries held their fire, hoping to bottle up the Confederate fleet and capture its ships. Tattnall managed to make the return trip safely through a hail of fire. Union forces subsequently constructed additional batteries on shore and further fortified their positions. Thereafter, the Savannah was no match for the combination of Union fleet and shore batteries.

(To be continued)


Not your ordinary building for today’s Mystery Photo

Today’s Mystery Photo is not your ordinary college dorm, nor municipal building. It’s famous for another reason.  Figure it out and send your answer to elliott@brack.net, and be sure to include where you live.

The last edition’s mystery of a building within a building caught the attention of several readers, though not all the submissions were correct.   Neal Davies of Decatur was the first correct answer, saying:  “That is the Canadian Chamber of Commerce building in Toronto, Canada.” The photo was submitted by George Graf of Palmyra, Va.

Alan Peel of  San Antonio, Tex. added: “While I have never personally seen this, a little detective sleuth work goes a long way. Zooming into the photo, you can make out that the brick building has its name in bricks, as ‘The Canadian Chamber of Commerce.” This building is in a Glass Archway in Toronto, Canada. It is located at 55 University Avenue, Toronto.”

George Graf also gave some additional information: “This is the Merchants’ Bank building in the Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place Toronto, Canada. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the Allen Lambert Galleria (aka ‘crystal cathedral of commerce’) has a white vaulted parabolic ceiling that creates a hall of light. The huge white arches are juxtaposed with the traditional building facades beneath them.  One of those façades is of the 1890s Merchants Bank building from Wellington Street. It was restored, removed and relocated into the Galleria, named after prominent Canadian banker, Allen Lambert.”

NOW FOR SOME MORE information about the previous Mystery Photo, the bronze sculpture of children flying around the world. The Decatur location on the Courthouse Square was dedicated to Mayor Emerita Elizabeth Wilson in 2000.

The sculpture by Gary Price in Columbus, Indiana is quite a commercial piece, and can be seen at several disparate locations. And it comes in several sizes, one weighing 35 pounds (costing $8,640); or 375 pounds (costing $33,000); another 11 feet in  dimension, and weighing 2,000 pounds ($177,600) and finally a colossal unit of 22 feet at $576,000. Shipping cost on the last one is $34,500.


Police Forum: Lawrenceville Police Department will host a series of public information forums designed to educate the public on the responsibilities of local law enforcement while strengthening community relations to bridge the gap between police officers and civilians. The first of these forums will be held October 10 at 6 p.m. in the Lawrenceville Police Headquarters at 300 Jackson Street. For more information visit www.lawrencevillega.org.

Veteran’s Roundtable: Gwinnett Public Library, in partnership with Goodwill Industries, has a Gwinnett Veterans Monthly Roundtable Meeting. The next will be October 11 at the Buford Branch of the Library. 2100 Buford Highway. Enjoy camaraderie and receive help and advice on filing VA claims, medical and educational resources, housing, job resources, and more.  No reservations are needed.  Drop-in between 1 and 3 p.m. For more information, email cwalker@ging.org.

Information Session on how communities can prepare for emergencies, disasters and adversities. This will be Saturday, October 14 starting at 10 a.m. conducted by the Department of Health of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Mosque, 1800 Willow Trail Parkway, Norcross. For details, email atiaghani@yahoo.com.

Seventh Annual St. Matthews Episcopal Church Show, Saturday, October 14, beginning at 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., rain or shine. The church is located at 1520 Oak Road in Snellville.  The show will be in the church parking lot. Cars, trucks and Motorcycles will  be on display. Proceeds will benefit The Place of Seven Springs in Snellville, which is a food bank and thrift store serving underprivileged families. For more information, visit www.stmatthewscarshow.com.

(NEW) Southern Wings Bird Club Auction will be Monday, October 16 at 7 p.m. at Rhodes Jordan Park Community Center, 100 East Crogan Street in Lawrenceville. Bring items to sell, for the home, for the birds, for the garden or for the tummy. More details: www.southernwingsbc.com.

(NEW) Virginia Willis, Southern chef and cookbook author, is among those who will be at the Good Taste Atlanta Cooking Showcase on Thursday, October 19 at 6 p.m. at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth. The event is sponsored by the Gwinnett County Public Library and Gwinnett Daily Post. Admission is $20. Library patrons can save $5 by using promo code SAVES. For more information, visit GoodTasteAtlanta.com.

RE-SCHEDULED: The Fall Community Forum on Domestic Minor Human Trafficking has been rescheduled for Tuesday, November 14 at 7 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 2140 Beaver Ruin Road, in Norcross. For more details, contact Muriam.Nafees@gwinnettcounty.com.


HANDYMAN SERVICES: Whatever your home maintenance problem is, Isaias Rodriguez can help. An experienced painter, he is dependable in installing or repairing siding, gutters, ceramic tile, plumbing, garage doors, or any other problem around your home. He’ll even fix your bike! He is originally from Mexico and has been in Georgia since 1996. He is legally allowed to work in the United States and is insured. Give him a call at his home in Norcross at 404-569-8825 or email him at rodriguez_isais@yahoo.com. Visit his Facebook page at Neza construction and home repair to see some of his past work.


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