By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos spoke to the Sandy Springs Rotary Club on the occasion of the city’s third birthday Dec. 1.

“I suppose there is a little bit of reminiscing about what it was like three years ago,” she said at the Hammond Glen Senior Community on Hammond Drive. “I remember we had all of these blue and silver balloons and lots of guests and dignitaries. You know, we were on top of the world. But, underneath all that, we had a little bit of trepidation, too.”

At the time, the city “didn’t have a penny in the bank” and struggled in its negotiations with Fulton County, she said. “It was constant haggling with the county.”

Rather than put a moratorium on development while learning zoning procedures, the City Council immediately began conducting business, she said. “You can imagine the pressure that that put on our staff and on ourselves as we began to learn the rules about how you zone and how you plan.”

Since that time, the city’s management has become an “ongoing operation” that is “fully oiled and efficient,” she said. “The paving, of course, has just been a tremendous bonanza in Sandy Springs. … The fact that we were able to do this when Fulton County had not been able to pave any of our roads for years and years does speak for the fact that we are pretty good managers.”

The Police Department recently received state certification after an “extraordinarily short period” and is working on national certification, which she said not all departments earn. “I’m sure we will. We think that that’s a goal and a wonderful goal.”

Galambos also spoke about the city’s new traffic management center and the 22-acre Lost Corner preserve at the corner of Riverside Drive and Brandon Mill Road.

She said of the 911 system being planned with the city of Johns Creek: “You’ve read about what’s happened with 911 in Fulton County. It is high time that we got out of that system, which is another one of those nonfunctional Fulton County services.” In August, a Johns Creek resident died after 911 operators accidentally sent an ambulance to southwest Atlanta rather than to her home.

Deciding what to do with the 8-acre former site of the Target store at Johnson Ferry Road and Sandy Springs Circle, whose purchase the city is closing on this month, will take some time, she said. “We’re going to have diverging opinions eventually as to what kind of edifice we should have in Sandy Springs, and I can imagine there is going to be lots and lots of public input.”

Galambos said that working the Georgia Department of Transportation can be tedious, which is why the widening of Abernathy Road has not yet begun. A contract to do the road work may be let in January, she said.

Sandy Springs’ traffic engineering staff has been able to reconfigure lanes in some parts of the city to create new ones. The intersection of Johnson Ferry and Roswell roads is one such example, and a similar project is planned for the Roswell Road bridge over I-285.

Whether an underpass will be built to alleviate traffic on that bridge is unknown, Galambos said. But “they’re going to restripe the bridge, and, folks, it’s going to make the bridge work without having to have additional pavement. It’s just extraordinary how thinking and using your mind and looking at a situation … can give you that kind of an advantage.”

Despite the tough economic situation, Sandy Springs has been “very frugal and very fiscally conservative, and I think we’re going to be fine for this fiscal year,” she said.

“Once this recession is over, we’re going to take off. We’re so close to the urban center, we are the next big area for things that are going to happen. We want them to happen in an orderly fashion, but we do want growth. And I think we’ve demonstrated that in some of the decisions we’ve made.”