The Sandy Springs City Council bid farewell to the old City Hall in a quirky final meeting May 1 before its move to City Springs.
The city’s eyes are clearly looking ahead to the new $229 million civic center, where a new City Hall is set to open May 7. The final meeting in the old City Council chamber in a Roswell Road office park – its first and only home since its landmark incorporation over 12 years ago – lasted only about 15 minutes.
“It’s not with any sadness that I leave this room,” said Mayor Rusty Paul as he opened the meeting. But, he said, “it has served us well” and deserves a “fond farewell.”
The agenda contained only one item of real business: an approval of yet another strategic move in the ongoing war with security companies about false alarms. The latest tweak makes it the company’s responsibility to notify its customers if it is placed on a controversial non-response list by police for repeated false alarms or failure to register or pay fines.
That left the rest of the meeting for some nostalgia and some less-than-serious remarks.
“There’s been some very important decisions made in this room,” said Paul, though he and Councilmember Tibby DeJulio – who served since the city’s founding – could not immediately agree on the date of the first meeting where they scrambled to vote ordinances into place immediately after the incorporation in late 2005.
DeJulio said he left the chamber with a “heavy heart and many fond memories.”
“We had many good meetings, and a few not so good,” said DeJulio. But, he added, the councilmembers had always worked well together over the years.
Paul predicted that one day a “historic plaque” will be erected on Roswell Road to say that Sandy Springs City Hall once occupied the space.
DeJulio had another sort of history in mind. He noted that the old City Hall has a room named the “Flying Pig Boardroom” after a legendary political story about opposition to Sandy Springs’ formation. Former state Sen. Vincent Fort reportedly said that the city would incorporate “when pigs fly”; Fort has denied making the comment, but Sandy Springs adopted the flying pig as a mascot after a landmark incorporation that set off a metro Atlanta cityhood movement.
“That’s an important part of our history,” DeJulio said.
Paul joked that perhaps the flying pig would donate $50,000 for naming rights to a City Springs room. City spokesperson Sharon Kraun said in a previous interview that there will indeed be a Flying Pig room in the new City Hall, with the exact space to be determined.
Less significant matters discussed by the body included Councilmember Andy Bauman’s dutiful defeat of other Fulton County city representatives in a recent cornhole match, which earned him an oversized trophy for display in the mayor’s office. Also occupying the mayor’s office was a swarm of 100,000 bees; the mayor, who is also a serious beekeeper, reported that he had ordered the insects through the mail and was temporarily storing them there after a postal error.
It was not only the last council meeting for officials, but also for a resident who has attended more meetings than any of them. Bill Gannon, the president of the High Point Civic Association, is a fixture of council meetings, always sitting in the front row at the room’s left side, and says he has only missed two meetings in the city’s history. His wife Janet is an artist who has a painting hanging in the chamber.
With only a few people in the audience and no one signed up to make public comments, Paul invited Gannon to offer any thoughts. Gannon said he recalled two memorable council meetings over the years, including an “X-rated meeting” where someone chose to discuss prophylactics, and an argument between two former councilmembers that culminated in the cry, “It’s not a tree, Karen! It’s just a pine tree!” The memories left Paul joking that Gannon could be counted on to end a meeting on a high note.
While City Hall is moving out of the rented space in the Morgan Falls office park at 7840 Roswell Road, the old council chamber will continue to serve as the city court, as it has for many years. The police department will remain headquartered elsewhere in the office park, too.
The new City Hall within City Springs is scheduled to have a grand opening with public tours on Monday, May 7 at 9 a.m. The council is scheduled to next meet in its new chamber – a large and impressive room whose main function is as a “Studio Theatre” for plays and concerts – on May 15.
City Springs is a mixed-use civic center opening in stages this year on a site bounded by Roswell Road, Johnson Ferry Road, Sandy Springs Circle and Johnson Ferry Road. Besides City Hall, it includes a Performing Arts Center, a park, apartments, shops and restaurants. For more information, see citysprings.com.