By Gerhard Schneibel

Sandy Springs’ contract with Denver-based CH2M Hill has often been referenced as a model of success since the city’s 2005 creation. But the company doesn’t disclose the profit it makes on Sandy Springs’ tax money and has never provided city officials with tangible statistics by which to measure its level of service.

The lack of data became an issue during the City Council’s retreat March 27.

The company was expected to employ 138 people for Sandy Springs at a fixed cost of $26,286,048 in fiscal 2009, but City Attorney Wendell Willard said, “There have been times — lengthy times — when there have been slots empty.”

Dist. 1 Councilman Doug MacGinnitie said the city has to decide how it wants to manage its contract with CH2M Hill. “Do you want to manage it by output or by headcount? Because if you want to manage it by headcount, you’re operating like every other government.”

In one instance, the city asked that three stormwater engineers be hired to work on the city’s stormwater system inventory. The city agreed to pay $403,777 for the engineers in November. The city had to pay that amount even though two of the engineers were not hired until December and January. CH2M Hill said that was a prorated amount, and it wants $750,000 for the same service in fiscal 2010.

Sandy Springs was a local pioneer in outsourcing most city operations in December 2005. Now that CH2M Hill also operates nearby Johns Creek and Milton, Willard said there should be “some allocation of all the cities served” for expenses such as insurance.

“We want to get empirical data about what is being provided,” he said.

Herb Washington, a CH2M Hill vice president, simply said the company is “working all of this out with the city.”