By Sandy Springs City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny
Our 99,771 city residents can be proud of their city’s highly efficient service delivery through privatization of government services.
The Reason Foundation recognized the city of Sandy Springs as the national prototype of the private-public partnership, a vehicle which outsources most employees to the private sector.
We operate with fewer employees than comparable cities. With police and fire personnel included, the Sandy Springs personnel ratio is 3.73 per 1,000 residents. According to a survey of Georgia cities compiled by the state of Georgia , East Point has a ratio of 12.9; Gainesville, 10.8; Peachtree City, 7.3; and Woodstock, 7.1. That savings in salary and benefit costs falls directly to the bottom line to be spent on the infrastructure (capital improvements) needs, all without raising our 4.731 millage rate.
Since 2007, city-funded capital improvements have totaled more than $113 million at an average of $22.6 million per year . This is on top of repaying the $10 million tax anticipation note taken out Dec. 1, 2005, to fund the city’s start-up operation, and the $19.8 million currently in our “rainy-day” savings fund.
Capital improvements for “quality-of-life” issues include 105 miles of resurfaced /reconstructed roads and 6.9 miles of sidewalks; new parks (Lost Corner, Morgan Falls Overlook and Abernathy Linear); upgrades to the Morgan Falls ball fields and upgrades to Hammond Park and the Sandy Springs tennis center. The Roswell Road commute time in 2009 decreased 17 minutes from 2007 as a result of the traffic-management center and its ability to control the timing of the traffic signals via fiber optic cable.
Public safety has been enhanced. The number of police officers has increased from 42 prior to incorporation to 140 today; ChatComm, a joint enterprise with Johns Creek, brought emergency dispatch “in house” answering calls within 10 seconds 94.3 percent of the time.
Fire response service has been augmented in the southwest district of Sandy Springs through the automatic response agreement with the city of Atlanta Fire Department‘s Station 21 on Northside Drive, and the city increased our emergency medical ambulance service by two additional ambulances during peak times and one additional during off-peak periods to maintain an 8-minute response time.
John Sawhill, former president of the Nature Conservancy, said, “For in the end, our society will be defined not by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.” I am pleased to have worked with the community to save the 1835 William and Sarah Power chimney at the new Morgan Falls Overlook Park in 2009, when it was learned the city’s original plans were to demolish it and use its stones as a fire pit. It’s now the focal point of our new Morgan Falls Overlook Park.
Our residential neighborhoods were spared additional tree canopy loss, further stream and water quality degradation and higher densities on existing lots when “flag lots,” which allowed increased density of development, were eliminated in 2007.
Going forward we must continue to measure the effectiveness of the tree ordinance to ensure its 30 percent replacement canopy target is in fact being accomplished. Adequate funding for storm water management will prevent the silting up of our streams. We always need more neighborhood sidewalks.
But with our financially prudent budgeting, your city can meet those needs while growing the relevance of our city center to include our City Hall.
I am honored by the support of our citizenry and the faith they place in us to protect their families, their quality of life and to encourage balanced growth as the underpinning of a strong business community and the jobs it provides … all without raising taxes.
Karen Meinzen McEnerny was among the members of the first Sandy Springs City Council. She is in her second term and represents District 6.