Despite complaints from dozens of residents against the particulars of a proposal to bring a technical college to Sandy Springs, a divided Sandy Springs City Council approved the plan 4-3.

Mayor Eva Galambos cast the tie-breaking vote as the council on Jan. 18 approved a resolution intended to convince Gwinnett Technical College to establish a north Fulton County campus in Sandy Springs.

“I am thinking of the future of Sandy Springs, as I did in the many years I sought to get a city of Sandy Springs,” the mayor said just before the vote ended a meeting that lasted about 3 1/2 hours. “To me, the overriding necessity of this community is to continue its economic prosperity… We need a healthy commercial tax base.”

During the public debate before the vote, opponents objected to provisions of the proposal under which the city would provide $2.5 million, to be matched by the business community, for the project and would direct the college to property near the North Springs MARTA station.

Three council members strongly opposed the plan, as did most of the about 150 residents who filled the council chambers for the debate. Members of the audience at times loudly expressed displeasure with the cost of the proposal or the proposed site for the new college. Some suggested alternative sites for the college, and the council voted to allow the committee drawing up the proposal to add an alternate site if one seemed suitable.

Councilmembers John Paulson, Dianne Fries and Tibby DeJulio voted in favor of the plan. Councilmembers Chip Collins, Ashley Jenkins and Karen Meinzen McEnerny voted against it.

Opponents and proponents of the plan had staged e-mail campaigns after the proposal surfaced last week. Paulson said he had received about 1,000 e-mails.

Officials at Gwinnett Tech had asked cities in north Fulton County to submit proposals to attract the new campus, which was projected to provide $40 million to $50 million in construction and bring 10,000 to 12,000 students to the winning community.

“Do not give away our tax dollars,” resident Randy Staton told the council. “They will choose Sandy Springs, if they have to pay to come to Sandy Springs.”

Others argued the new college would bring investment to the community. Supporters on the council said the college should be called Sandy Springs Technical College.

“We know this is a good idea because of the response you’ve had from the business community,” said Kevin King. “I worry about our position in the competition by having a divided vote. … A unanimous vote is the proper way to show our enthusiasm from this.”

–Joe Earle

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.