Eva Galambos
Eva Galambos

Mayor Eva Galambos cites economic development, rising city revenue, efforts to reduce homeowners’ water rates and plans to create a downtown for Sandy Springs as evidence the city is improving.

“I think we’re on the right path,” Galambos said during her annual “State of the City” speech, hosted by the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce.  More than 125 people, including business owners and city officials, attended the speech at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North hotel on Feb. 25.

During her speech, the mayor highlighted:

-Economic development. Galambos said an economic advisory committee appointed by the city last year is developing ways to promote the city and city officials are working to attract international business investors, including the Chinese. “All this American money the Chinese hold in bonds is going to come back,” she said. “Folks, they’re coming to the West Coast like crazy – the Chinese investors – and we can garner some of them here, too.”

– At the same time, she said, the city’s incentives program has attracted $106.5 million in capital expenditures through use of $1.4 million in incentives, such as tax relief.

– Meanwhile, more than 6,000 new jobs had been created in the Sandy Springs/Perimeter area. “About a third of those new jobs are IT jobs,” she said. “These are the ones that are the highest paid and that we want to attract.”

– Development of the city center. The mayor said the city plans to purchase a block of downtown Sandy Springs that contains the city-owned former Target building and create a public-private partnership to develop the area with housing and public spaces. The city also plans to create a corridor extending Bluestone Road, which city officials believe will develop like Canton Street in Roswell, she said.  “We demolished the first building last week,” Galambos said. “…Why do we want a ‘Canton Street’? All great cities have avenues with people sitting in cafes and Googling each other. … That’s what we need in downtown Sandy Springs. We need an area where we can all Google each other and be seen.”

– Revenues. City revenues have begun to rise again after falling significantly during the recent recession, the mayor said. Tax collections hit a high of $85 million in 2008, she said, but fell to $77 million in 2011. “We’re coming up again,” she said. “We budgeted $79 million this year and I think we’re going to exceed that,” she said.

– Water rates. Sandy Springs residents pay 21 percent higher rates for water from the Atlanta water system than do residents of Atlanta, Galambos said. Sandy Springs officials have spent years trying to change that, she said, but direct negotiations failed and court action stalled. In November, the mayor said, the issue was returned to state court from federal court, she said. “It was the most wonderful affirmation of states’ rights,” she said. Meanwhile, Sandy Springs Rep. Wendell Willard, who is also the city attorney, is pushing legislation to make Atlanta negotiate, she said. “After eight years of frustration, I see a light,” she said.

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.