Changing the contractors providing city services in Sandy Springs doesn’t necessarily mean wholesale change in the people working for the city, city officials say.

The three new city contractors who will take over as providers of city services on July 1 may choose to retain the city staffers who had worked for CH2M HILL, the former contractor.

“They’re going through the process now. The companies will be interviewing the employees,” said City Councilwoman Dianne Fries. “I would imagine there will be offer letters going out to any they want to retain.”

The council voted May 17 to contract three companies – URS Corp., the Collaborative and Jacobs Engineering Group – to provide city services. From shortly after the city’s start in 2005, those services had been provided by a single contractor, CH2M HILL. City officials said the change would save the city about $7 million a year.

URS Corp. contracted to operate the city’s public works department and Jacobs Engineering Group contracted to run the municipal court and recreation and parks department.

Nicole Buxton, vice president of communications and marketing for the Collaborative, which won bids to run Sandy Springs’ communications and community development departments, says the company does contract work for the federal government and is accustomed to taking over management contracts from other firms.

She said representatives of the Collaborative, which has offices in Boston and California, would conduct interviews with Sandy Springs staff members in early June.

“We expect a majority of those folks will be hired on,” she said. “I would say the majority of folks would remain in the current jobs.”

Ed Shoucair, senior vice president and partner in the Collaborative, said his firm would interview all current city employees who wish to stay on. “It seems like to us there are a lot of talented and hard-working people working for CH,” he said. “The city’s been well-served.”

He said his company will not necessarily employ fewer employees at Sandy Springs than CH2M HILL employed. Reductions in the contract costs, he said, can come from better management and “a more competitive economy than five years ago.”

City officials say that although they aren’t involved in the staffing process, but hope that in the end a sizeable portion of current employees will remain with the city, employed by the new contractors.

“I think we’ll see a lot of the incumbent staff remain,” City Councilman Gabe Sterling said. “I’m hopeful you’ll see a majority of them remain.”

Fries said the reason was the change in contractors was to save money, not because city officials questioned the work done by employees.

“Personally, I hope they’ll all stay on,” she said. “The quality of our work force, of the employees, has been stellar.”


Quick look at three contractors

Three companies won the bids on five contracts for Sandy Springs city government services that were previously handled by contractor CH2M HILL.

The new contractors are:

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., a publicly traded company based in Pasadena, Calif., has contracted to operate Sandy Springs’ municipal court and recreation and parks department. Jacobs says it had revenues of nearly $10 billion last year and is “one of the world’s largest and most diverse providers of technical, professional and construction services.” Jacobs boasts it has been in business for more than 60 years and operates more than 160 offices in 20-plus countries.

the Collaborative, a private company with offices in Boston and California, has contracted to operate Sandy Springs’ communications and community development departments. The Collaborative was founded in 1991 and offers transportation planning, design and communications services. The company has 20 to 25 employees.

URS Corp., a publicly traded company headquartered in San Francisco, has contracted to operate Sandy Springs’ public works department. The company was established in 1951, but says its “oldest predecessor company” was founded in 1904. URS says it employs about 46,000 in more than 40 countries and took in $9.18 billion in revenues in 2010. The company says it offers a full range of program management; planning, design and engineering; systems engineering and technical assistance; construction and construction management; operations and maintenance; and decommissioning services.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.