By Amy Wenk
The city of Sandy Springs and other Fulton County cities like Roswell, Johns Creek and Mountain Park are so thirsty for better water rates from the Atlanta Watershed Department they have filed a case in Fulton County Superior Court.
“We are proceeding as the law outlines it under the Service Delivery Strategy Act to challenge certain things that are done as far as rate structures and the future ability of Atlanta to continue supplying water to Sandy Springs,” City Attorney Wendell Willard said.
No court date has been set. Willard said the Superior Court needs to appoint a judge from outside the circuit to lead the proceedings.
However, Nov. 13 Sandy Springs officials met with Judge Thomas Thrash of the U.S. District Court for the northern district of Georgia. About 12 years ago, Judge Thrash signed the federal consent decrees that require the city of Atlanta to spend almost $4 billion to improve its water infrastructure and has since presided over the case.
Atlanta officials requested the hearing, because changes to water-rate structures “could have a material impact on their raising funds” to comply with the consent decrees, Wendell said. “They are asking Judge Thrash to look at the possibility of the service delivery strategy agreement having an impact upon their continued ability to repair the system and receive appropriate funding for that.”
Coverage of the Nov. 13 hearing was not available at press time. Visit www.reporternewspapers.net for the report.
Sandy Springs officials this summer began pursuing options to renegotiate the water surcharge in its service delivery agreement. Residents pay a 21-percent surcharge for Atlanta water, even though a waterline from Johns Creek services about 75 percent of the city. Sewer improvement costs also are embedded in water rates despite Sandy Springs not being part of Atlanta’s sewer system.
Willard has estimated citizens are overcharged $6 to $7 million a year for water.
Mediation proceedings started in October and since no agreement was reached, the state Department of Community Affairs requires the case go to court.
Willard said Sandy Springs’ best defense is to prove the 21-percent surcharge is unreasonable.
In recent months, the city has collected information to prepare for litigation. At a Sept. 15 meeting, City Council authorized a cost study analysis of water fees incurred by residents and businesses in Sandy Springs. And on Oct. 20, citizens were asked to comment on their water rates and service.
If Atlanta refuses to lower the surcharge, Mayor Eva Galambos has said Sandy Springs may look to distribute its own water.