Sandy Springs city officials’ push for a new government complex may eventually involve borrowing large sums of money in the form of bonds in order to pay for the project.
City Manager John McDonough stressed that the city has not officially discussed how it would pay for the project, which is still in its early stages. “The city is currently in the property acquisition phase in the development of the City Center Complex and is not at the stage to consider the issuance of municipal bonds,” he said.
Mayor Eva Galambos said the city can borrow money for the project without raising taxes.
“Obviously when you buy a house, when a family buys a house, you save enough for a decent down payment, then you finance your mortgage and I think we will be able to finance most of our mortgage, which is bonds,” Galambos said.
Wendell Willard, the city’s attorney, said he’s in the process of calling property owners about purchasing property around the vacant Target building. The city purchased the Target building for $8.9 million in 2008. But the overall cost of the project is not known, though Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny expects it to be in excess of $30 million.
The planned complex would include City Hall, a police department and a municipal court. Sandy Springs now leases office space and hasn’t had a permanent home since the city formed five years ago.
“I would expect we’re going to go out in the market and issue some sort of bonds to pay for the building,” Meinzen McEnerny said. “We have been identifying money each year to acquire the property, so we’re hoping have all of the land acquired and paid for prior to construction.”
City Councilman Chip Collins said there’s a chance the city could finance the project without borrowing money, but said the city should consider using bonds.
City Councilwoman Dianne Fries said the city should explore all its options to pay for the complex.
“We’re still just in the infancy of discussing buying properties in that area, so we’ve got funds set aside to purchase land and that’s as far as we’ve committed ourselves,” Fries said. “We’re working with the property owners to see if we can’t find something that everybody agrees upon.”
Willard said the project could be the first time the city has issued bonds. He said the city currently does not have a bond rating, a measurement creditors use to determine interest rates.
“We’ve never had to sell a bond,” Willard said. “I’m sure if we’re on a bond market looking for bond revenue we’d get the best rate there is, we have no debt.”
Amy Davis, the city’s finance director, said the city has budgeted a combined $9 million over the last three fiscal years for the city complex. McDonough said via e-mail that the city will begin planning this fall and will be asking for input from residents and businesses. The city also has $19 million in its reserve account that is not allocated to any specific project, Davis said. The money functions as the city’s savings account and is a factor used in determining a city’s bond rating.
While the property owners have disputed the city’s need for what they consider a prime spot in Sandy Springs, Willard said the location could have a positive influence on the surrounding area.
Collins said the location is the “historic center of the city.”
“It’s close to, and in the middle of, probably, our most thriving shopping centers, and it’s near many of our neighborhoods,” Collins said. “It’s near our current cultural complex. It ties in perfectly with what we already have.”