Clarification: The original article failed to clarify that City Council was considering total construction costs for Veterans Park in its discussions, and not any other related costs, such as land acquisition and utility line burial. As previously reported, the city spent $4.8 million on land acquisition for the park and the Johnson Ferry/Mount Vernon Highway Intersection project and another $4.5 million on power line burial.
The Sandy Springs City Council on April 19 discussed a proposal to build a pedestrian bridge linking City Springs to its future Veterans Park across Roswell Road.
While city officials like the idea of a bridge, they are not sure they want to pay for it.
Deputy City Manager Dave Wells said preliminary estimates on a pedestrian bridge were between $3.5 million and $5 million. That’s in addition to the approximately $4.75 million the city has budgeted for the park, including $1.3 million for a large fountain, he said.
In total, the construction of Veterans Park and the pedestrian bridge could cost taxpayers between $8.25 million and $9.75 million.
The city approved paying Georgia Power $4.5 million to bury power lines for the Johnson Ferry Road at Mount Vernon Highway intersection improvement project, which included all utility poles at Veterans Park, on March 1.
Sandy Springs had spent approximately $4.8 million to buy the Johnson Ferry Road/Mount Vernon Highway triangle for a park and its road project that was envisioned in 2017 as a roundabout but has since been designed as a compressed grid project.
In his presentation, Wells said Veterans Park was approved for the triangle-shaped lot between Mount Vernon and Johnsons Ferry Road. It would include a Veterans Memorial courtyard, monumental artwork, a gateway fountain and walkways.
“If you step outside of the park when the fountain’s running, that really helps to mitigate the sound of the traffic nearby,” said John Fish of BARGE Design Solutions of Atlanta. “The same effect will happen when you’re in the park.”
Fish told Mayor Rusty Paul the fountain might not need to be as big as it’s shown in the design to accomplish its noise cancellation goal.
Councilmember John Paulson said he was in favor of the fountain.
“Now can we accomplish the same concept with a smaller fountain on the side? Maybe that’s worth talking about,” he said.
Paulson said the cost of the pedestrian bridge is a lot of money.
Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said he thought the mirror image fountains at the park and at City Springs look dynamic as an entry point for the city.
“I don’t think the city should put money into that bridge,” he said.
Councilmember Jody Reichel said she doesn’t support putting in a fountain at Veterans Park and would rather spend that $1.3 million on a pedestrian bridge. She hoped GDOT would help fund it as it’s for the safety of residents.
Fish said substituting a flower bed for the fountain might save approximately $1 million.
“I liked the idea of the fountains. I don’t like the idea of the cost,” Councilmember Melissa Mular said.
She thought funds could be used on something other than the pedestrian bridge.
Councilmember Melody Kelley wants to wait until the city gets the results from its Roswell Road access management study before making a decision on the pedestrian bridge.
Councilmember Andy Bauman said the cost of the fountain – which is more than 25% of the park’s entire budget – is too much.
He agreed with other councilmembers that it’s too early and they lack enough data to decide on the pedestrian bridge.
“We need to find out from Georgia Power whether it’s even possible,” Paul said.
“I’m a little bit concerned that we’re casually just dismissing these fountains,” Paulson said. “We’ve been talking about these fountains for seven years.”
He said he hopes the city can find out if a smaller fountain can be designed that will still act as a noise barrier and convey the image sought.
The mayor summed up what he was hearing in a compromise on the issues.
“The bridge people need more data. I think the fountain people need more data,” Paul said. “Let’s take a look at what we might be able to do to modify the fountains, reduce them in size.”
He also instructed Public Works Director Marty Martin to contact Georgia Power and GDOT about whether the city could build a pedestrian bridge across Roswell Road underneath transmission lines – and get help paying for it.
City resident Tochie Blad, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, said it was good to hear discussions about the fountains.
“I want to talk about the fiscal responsibility when it comes to the Veterans Park,” she said. “You’ve taken a lot of debt recently with this building, with the Public Safety building.”
Design for the park seems to be happening in small pieces, Blad said, and she wasn’t sure what the final budget will be. The council even had an agenda item Tuesday night to do more site work for the park.
“I realize this park means a lot, but let’s keep the cost in mind as we move forward,” she said.