By Amy Wenk

Sandy Springs officials continue to fight for better water rates and service from the city of Atlanta.

At their Sept. 15 meeting, City Council authorized a cost study analysis of water fees incurred by residents and businesses in Sandy Springs.

The results will back up the city’s complaints and strengthen its case for the renegotiation of its service delivery agreement with Atlanta that commenced this summer. Sandy Springs officials are proposing new language to give the city the right to decide how water treatment, distribution and billing services are provided.

“There are strong disagreements on key issues,” said City Attorney Wendell Willard, noting it is estimated citizens are overcharged $6 to 7 million a year for water. Residents pay a 21 percent surcharge for Atlanta water, and sewer improvement costs are embedded in water rates even though Sandy Springs is not part of the sewer system.

Since the state Department of Community Affairs is mandating the service delivery agreement be resolved by the end of October, the study of water fees is necessary to solidify Sandy Springs’ case. Mediation starts at the beginning of October, and if no agreement is reached, litigation will follow.

The study will cost in excess of $150,000 to $250,000 and will be financed from the city’s reserve or “rainy day” fund.

A public hearing also will take place to collect comments from residents about the water rate structure.