City and local business leaders soon will pitch an idea to Gwinnett Technical College officials about locating a satellite campus in Sandy Springs, reworking a proposal that roiled the community a little more than a year ago.
The two main proponents of the idea, Mayor Eva Galambos and Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rusty Paul, updated the council at its June 19 work session.
They plan to respond to the college’s latest “indication of interest” in a new campus in North Fulton.
The potential costs to the city this time will be higher the $2.5 million the city offered in January 2011.
The college is asking applicants to offer up a $5 million gift as an incentive.
Galambos said the city could provide the gift by building a parking deck using bond money and then paying back the bonds with parking fees.
Paul assured council members the $5 million isn’t something to worry about. He said the chamber and city officials are looking for ways to lower the cost of the project to reduce the $5 million Gwinnett Tech needs.
“Knowing the mayor the way I do, there will be iron-clad guarantees. There won’t be any financial risk,” Paul said.
Gwinnett Tech’s solicitation for proposals says the state has allocated $25 million to purchase and develop the property.
The council did not formally vote on making a proposal and some were skeptical.
“I’m nervous because I don’t know where the heck [the proposed site] is,” Councilman Gabriel Sterling said, adding, “I’d rather the chamber try this than not.”
Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny suggested the chamber should use its resources to attract private businesses to the city, not state-funded colleges.
Paul and Galambos’ comments implied the site will not be the site the city originally suggested, property adjacent to the North Springs MARTA station. That plan narrowly passed the council in a 4-3 decision in January 2011, with Galambos casting a rare tie-breaking vote. Gov. Nathan Deal later nixed plans to build a North Fulton campus by vetoing bond funding.
There are several other sites on the table, Paul and Galambos said. Paul said potential sites would be outside of the Roswell Road corridor and would be a minimal disruption to nearby neighborhoods.
Galambos said one possibility is a site near the intersection Abernathy Road and Ga. 400 but did not offer specifics.
Galambos said the response to the indication of interest is due by July 1 and does not require council approval. The city isn’t signing any contracts or agreements with Gwinnett Tech, she said.
The update was to make sure council members were comfortable with the idea, she said.
“Conceptually you all need to be on board,” Galambos said. “You all need to be comfortable with the idea that we would offer a parking structure to be paid for with parking fees.”
The city might not be making the official response to the college’s request, Paul said. He said while the city and chamber are working on the response, the entity that will make the formal proposal is to be determined.
There are many benefits to having a Gwinnett Tech campus in Sandy Springs, Paul and Galambos said.
Paul said having a trained work force would be attractive to new businesses. He also said having the technical college could tie into another idea he has proposed: turning Pill Hill into a “Silicon Valley of healthcare.”
He recently proposed an alliance of hospitals to move the concept forward.