Julie McGhee Howard, managing partner of NowackHoward, LLC and president of the Sandy Springs Bar Association, introduced Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul and Sandy Springs Associate Municipal Judge Dawn Davis during the organization’s luncheon at The Chapter House in The Prado. (Bob Pepalis)

Mayor Rusty Paul told the Sandy Springs Bar Association that he hopes the city’s litigation with Atlanta over water service will be resolved soon.

Paul told the attorneys, judges and other members at a Sept. 20 luncheon that Sandy Springs’ relationship with Atlanta has greatly improved since Mayor Andre Dickens took office.

The city’s lawsuits were filed to force Atlanta into entering an intergovernmental agreement with Sandy Springs for water service and adjustment of rates, according to city attorney Dan Lee. Atlanta has operated a water system in Sandy Springs despite never entering into an IGA since the city formed in 2005.

Dickens has told his staff he wants to work the water issue out, Paul said.

“And I believe him. But he’s got his hands full. I mean, he’s got ‘Cop City,’ he’s got all kinds of challenges and Sandy Springs’ water situation isn’t necessarily his top priority these days,” Paul said.

But It is the top priority for Sandy Springs, the mayor said.

The most recent letters between the two cities have not gone far enough, Paul said. He has told Dickens that if the two of them sit down together they can reach a solution.

Paul also discussed rental property conditions and affordable housing issues. Community advocates want to hold landlords accountable for maintaining their properties. But absentee owners and shell companies make it difficult to find responsible parties, Paul said.

The Georgia General Assembly values property rights, but Paul said cities need the tools to assure residents have decent and safe housing.

Preserving the city’s existing affordable housing, such as in the Crossroads neighborhoods, requires redevelopment. Paul said any redevelopment must minimize the impact on current residents.

He said cities need to make sure luxury properties are available or higher income individuals will buy up properties, increase home prices, and eliminate starter homes.

Sandy Springs is working on increasing retail, office, and residential space through the expansion of City Springs two blocks south, Paul said. The proposal includes fee simple condos, retail, restaurants, and office space. It will include parcels south of City Hall and the City Green, and across Mount Vernon Highway bounded by Sandy Springs Circle, Hildebrand Road, and Heritage Green Park.

The mayor said the city, like other municipalities and companies, has found it difficult to fill open job positions. They’ve sought a qualified assistant city manager for months, and have recruited police officers from cities like Portland, Seattle and Chicago.

“We have 3 million people in Georgia who’ve left the workforce in the last 10 years,” Paul said.

He was surprised to learn that most of them were women. They’ve had to quit because they couldn’t find affordable daycare.

Transportation projects suffer from the lack of skilled workers as they don’t have enough engineers to design transportation and other projects, Paul said.

“When it comes to skilled labor, like plumbers, carpenters, electricians, HVAC, bricklayers, they don’t exist,” Paul stated.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.