By Amy Wenk
amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

The city of Sandy Springs is getting ready to rebid its city services contract, but it still has at least one more year with private contractor CH2M HILL.

The six-year contract between the city and CH2M HILL began in January 2006 but is renewed annually, with the final termination date set for December, 2011. However, the city is discussing ending the contract early to align it with the start of the fiscal year in July.

The firm should present next year’s contract numbers at the April 20 Sandy Springs City Council meeting.

City officials hope the contract is less expensive than previous years.

At a City Council retreat in March, Mayor Eva Galambos gave council members and staff a breakdown of recent contract costs.

From the beginning of 2007 to the start of 2009, the cost of services from CH2M HILL has increased 7 percent or $1.7 million. That number factors in the cost of new services offered in that period of time. The total increase is almost $2.2 million.

CH2M HILL’s 2010 contract of $26.1 million saw a cost reduction from 2009. But, according to budget projections Director of Finance Amy Davis gave council at the retreat, the city foresees the contract amount increasing two to three percent in 2011 to $26.6 million.

Davis also said the city will collect less revenue and have more expenses in 2011.

Revenue is estimated to be about $78 million in 2011, Davis said, $5.5 million less than anticipated revenues for the current 2010 budget. Expenditures are anticipated to increase at least $1.25 million due to factors like a 33 percent increase in gasoline prices and a 12 to 15 percent increase in the cost of benefits like health insurance, Davis said.

Budget planning begins this month for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“Be sensitive to the fact we have a revenue problem here,” Dist. 1 Councilman John Paulson said to staff of CH2M HILL at the retreat.

CH2M HILL Vice President Paul Demit assured the city next year’s contract would provide a better value at a lower cost.

“We realize you are in a financial and political box,” Demit said. “We’ve got to step up to the plate and help.”

Demit and other CH2M HILL executives at the retreat presented ideas for the city’s future in a report called “Innovation Recommendations.”

The report proposes initiatives like a virtual City Hall that facilitates online payments for city fees and licenses. Another idea is to designate a liaison between the city of Atlanta Department of Watershed and Sandy Springs residents who have complaints about water bills.

CH2M HILL also discussed changing the contract to a performance-based model. That kind of contract, the report said, would provide the city with a predetermined set of criteria to measure CH2M HILL’s performance.

The current contract sets out full-time hourly requirements to fulfill.

City officials were weary of the change to the contract model.

“There are too many unknowns,” Galambos said.