By John Schaffner
Mayor Eva Galambos presented a long list of first-year accomplishments for the city of SandySprings—including ending the year with a budget reserve—and then forecast the future in her annual “State of the City” address July 11 to a packed house of more than 160 Sandy Springs Business Association members and guests.
“The state of the city of Sandy Springs is excellent,” the mayor stated. “We are on a very sound financial footing and we have produced for you in terms of delivery of services which, after all, is what the city is all about.”
She said the city finished its first year of operation with a financial reserve, “which is a frugal way of running a conservative, fiscally well-managed city.”
The mayor cited as being “remarkable” that the city had, in the past year, put on the street full-fledged, professional police, fire and EMS forces. She said the police officers have the highest average of experience when hired of any department in the metro Atlanta area.
She cited as being unique that when the police officers are hired they have to go through a very rigorous ethics program.
Mayor Galambos explained that EMS has turned out to be the largest portion of the Fire and Rescue Department, answering more calls than fire calls. “We have a fabulous training program for all paramedics” under contract with Emory.
She pointed out that all police cars and the fire department have defibrillators and the city is emphasizing to the community the importance of having them in places of business.
Turning to the city’s infrastructure needs, the mayor said, “We inherited roads that were in a terrible mess from Fulton County.” Priorities are being established on road repairs, she said, and the process of repaving them has begun.
The mayor listed other accomplishments the city made over the past year:
–Streamlined the permitting process to reduce the time required to obtain a building permit;
–Completed mandatory inspection of all apartment complexes in the city and is now embarking on instituting follow-up spot checks;
–Increased number of judges to four to increase the efficiency of the court system and shorten the court sessions;
–Approved a new comprehensive land use plan for the city following months of community input, meetings and compromises; and
–Obtained title to all of the parks in Sandy Springs from Fulton County at a cost of $1 per acre, which was paid by the Sandy Springs Society.
Turning to the future, Mayor Galambos told the group that projections for the new fiscal year, which began July 1, indicated that revenues will be up 9.1 percent over last year. “That is not because we have raised taxes,” she said. “It is because there is some growth and new development coming on line. We have some revenue sources we have never had before.”
This year, for the first time, the Insurance Premium Tax will kick in adding about $3.5 million in revenues, she said.
She mayor then outlined some of the areas the city will be concentrating on in terms of service delivery:
Water Service: Sandy Springs pays 21 percent more for water than those who live in Atlanta and rates are already projected to go up again. Sandy Springs water rates are commingled with Atlanta’s sewer revenues, although Sandy Springs pays Fulton County for sewer service. There is a “service delivery agreement” that has to be renegotiated when a new city comes on line and the mayor said, “Water will be a major topic.”
Storm Water: “We have terrible problems we inherited,” the mayor said. “We have sinkholes developing.” She said there is money in the budget to study what needs to be done.
Police Reserves: Initiating a new program for police reserves that can help with false alarms and with event traffic control.
Parks: The city has put aside $500,000 toward obtaining 26 acres of prime real estate at Dalrymple Drive and Brandon Mill Road. The land is owned by Peggy Miles and she is willing to donate it to the city for a park if she is guaranteed funds to maintain her care during the rest of her life. The transaction is being handled through the Trust for Public Land. Other parks plans include:
–Funding to produce a master plan for 20-plus acres the city owns at Morgan Falls Dam for a park and river access point.
–Continued planning and development of the Abernathy Greenways Project.
–The North Fulton Tennis Center will be renamed Sandy Springs Tennis Center and the center will be hosting an international tournament for young folks in 2008.
–Creation of a dog park as part of the Ridgeview Park, 5200 South Trimble Road, just west of Peachtree Dunwoody Road.
Impact Fees: “They are coming,” the mayor stated. New development will have to help pay for infrastructure improvements that will be necessary to support the growth and development.
Transportation Needs: Since improving the Roswell Road bridge at I-285 has been put on a back burner for now, the city is pushing for a tunnel under I-285 from Sandy Springs Circle and connecting to Kingsport Drive. Consultants are being contracted for a feasibility study.
The mayor also said Hammond Drive needs to be widened, but needs to be done so that the integrity of the neighborhoods on both sides is protected. She also predicted the Hammond Drive half-diamond interchange at Ga. 400 may happen.
Concluding her speech, Mayor Galambos said she has no idea where the future city hall will be. She said there have been discussions with developers, including talk of a public/private partnership. “We are open to it,” she said.
But the mayor stated emphatically: “We got a city to deliver services. What we do about a city hall is secondary.”