Sandy Springs City Council will hold a public hearing Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. to see if support exists to challenge the current water rates and service the City of Atlanta provides residents. The hearing will be held at City Hall, 7840 Roswell Road, building 500.

“I hope a lot of people will come out and give us their opinions,” Mayor Eva Galambos said. “Obviously, we want to do what the people tell us to do.”

Fed up with Atlanta’s high water rates and system neglect, Sandy Springs officials this summer began looking for options.

“We have no say-so as a city in how the service is being provided to the citizens in Sandy Springs,” said City Attorney Wendell Willard, who estimates residents are overcharged $6 to 7 million a year for water. “They don’t listen us.”

Residents pay a 21-percent surcharge for Atlanta water, even though most of Sandy Springs is served by a waterline that comes from a treatment plant in Johns Creek. In addition, sewer improvement costs are embedded in water rates although Sandy Springs is not part of Atlanta’s sewer system. Residents end up paying for two sewer systems: Fulton County and Atlanta.

Galambos said Atlanta has neglected water system maintenance and improvements. For instance, Sandy Springs has no alternate waterline even though state law requires it. If that waterline bursts, no treated water can reach the city.

“There is nothing that we can find on the books anywhere that shows that they have got a plan for this alternate,” Galambos said. “Our water rates are supposed to take care of keeping this system up to date and moving along for the future, and it’s not.”

The city is currently in mediation proceedings with Atlanta to renegotiate the water surcharge in its service delivery agreement.

“We don’t think the mediation is going to lead anywhere, because we have been dealing with this issue for years,” Galambos said. “We think it will end up going to court.”

To win the case, Wendell said Sandy Springs must prove water rates are not reasonable through engineering studies.

“I think if we could get rid of the 21 percent differential and if we could get Atlanta to maintain water pipes in Sandy Springs, then we would be satisfied,” Galambos said. “But if Atlanta isn’t even going to maintain our water pipes, then we definitely would be looking at other possibilities … [like] for us to be the distributor.”

— Amy Wenk