By Gerhard Schneibel
Sandy Springs could find itself in a newly resurrected Milton County after the 2010 elections, thanks to the efforts of legislators including Sandy Springs Reps. Wendell Willard and Joe Wilkinson, both Republicans.
Willard introduced a successful motion Feb. 18 to pass a bill that would arrange a referendum on whether the north Fulton region that once formed Milton County should break off to become that county again.
On Willard’s motion, the House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee approved H.R. 21 on a 7-1 vote. The bill now must get past the House Rules Committee to reach a vote on the House floor.
For a proposed constitutional amendment to be on the ballot in November 2010, the bill must receive a two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate. If the bill fails this year, it could be reintroduced next year and still make the 2010 ballot.
Willard said the bill faces “an uphill battle.”
“I would anticipate probably the Democratic caucus would be pretty unified in their opposition to it,” he said.
The Sandy Springs panhandle was in Milton County, but Willard said the bill does not specify geographic boundaries.
“The other important point is will Sandy Springs be included in a county of Milton if it were to come to pass,” he said. “The bill speaks of the new county and says Milton would have, in general, the same boundaries it had previously.
“We certainly don’t want to split Sandy Springs into two counties, and everybody understands and agrees it is anticipated Sandy Springs would be part of the new county.”
Wilkinson sponsored the bill, along with Willard, Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) and Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell).
“It will happen eventually, there’s no question about that,” Wilkinson said. “It will be easier to work with a Milton County because we will be in a smaller geographic county. It makes sense to have a county with cities that have more common interest.”
Fulton County stretches about 90 miles from north to south, and people have come to rely less on the county since the creation of the city of Sandy Springs in 2005, he said.
“If anything, it should have a positive effect on the city of Sandy Springs,” Wilkinson said. “The city of Sandy Springs has been such a great success, and it has been because of the hard work of our mayor and City Council, but also the privatization model.
“It’s like the city of Sandy Springs was — it will happen.”