Eva Galambos steps down
After two terms and a year of speculation, Mayor Eva Galambos decided in 2013 it was time to retire as mayor. Galambos’ retirement is a bookend to a campaign for Sandy Springs cityhood that began decades earlier. As she announced her retirement, she also endorsed her successor, former councilman Rusty Paul. Galambos isn’t going to stop working, however. She has plans that involve tutoring school children and becoming more active in civic organizations, like the Sandy Springs Rotary.
Galambos leaves office as plans for the city’s future downtown unfold. City Council approved the downtown master plan at the end of 2012. Sandy Springs made several high-profile property purchases this year around the site of the former Target property on Johnson Ferry Road that the city purchased in 2008. The road leading up to the new City Hall will be named “Galambos Way.”
New council and mayor
In November, the voters of Sandy Springs elected a new mayor and City Council. Former councilman Rusty Paul, endorsed by outgoing Mayor Eva Galambos, easily defeated local businessman Bob Brown. In addition to Galambos, two other council members are leaving office and one was defeated in her re-election bid. City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny was elected along with Galambos in 2005 and decided against seeking a third term. Councilman Chip Collins decided not to run again after one term so he could spend more time with his family. City Councilwoman Dianne Fries ran for a third term, but lost to Ken Dishman in the race for the District 2 seat.
The only returning council member who was also elected to the first council is District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio. District 4 City Councilman Gabriel Sterling defeated challenger Tochie Blad and will return for a second term on the council. District 1 City Councilman John Paulson ran unopposed.
Graham McDonald will replace Collins in District 3. In the District 6 race to replace McEnerny, Andy Bauman and John Stoj advanced from the November elections to the Dec. 3 runoffs, where Bauman easily defeated Stoj.
The new council members will take office in January.
Much of the public debate in Sandy Springs and Atlanta’s Buckhead community in 2013 concerned a mixed-use development near Chastain Park. Sandy Springs City Council approved the project in July after months of delay and debate.
The debate focused on the project’s potential impact on traffic, and the development of dense apartment projects in residential areas. The project will consist of 630 apartment units.
JLB Partners is the developer. The project will be located at the intersection of Roswell Road and Windsor Parkway, near Chastain Park. The city of Sandy Springs will have to realign that intersection, with a combination of impact fees, money moved from other projects, and potentially some bond financing. The project will likely have an effect on Buckhead traffic, but there isn’t any planned solution for the nearby intersection of Roswell and West Wieuca roads.
Purchase of park property on the river
One of the last actions of the current Sandy Springs City Council was buying 21.74 acres along Old Riverside Drive from Fulton County for $1.5 million. The city intends to turn the property, located across from the Marsh Creek Pumping Station, into a park. As part of the agreement, Fulton County would have a perpetual access easement across the property to allow the county to access the pump station. The city has been considering the purchase since 2011.
New police chief in, old chief moves on
In March, the city reorganized its public safety department and promoted then Police Chief Terry Sult to the newly-created job of public safety director. In his new position, Sult was to oversee both the city police and fire departments. Deputy Police Chief Kenneth DeSimone was named the new police chief, taking the job Sult had held since 2008. In September, Sult left the city and took a job as police chief in Hampton, Va.
Fulton schools headquarters moves to Sandy Springs
In October, Fulton County school officials announced plans to move the system’s headquarters from south Fulton to Sandy Springs. The move, part of a system reorganization of administrative offices, drew criticism from south Fulton residents, who questioned whether the system was abandoning them for richer communities in north Fulton.
School officials said the move was being made simply to save money. They planned to close six of the system’s oldest buildings and relocate employees into three buildings, including a headquarters building at 6201 Powers Ferry Road in Sandy Springs, and a North Learning Center at 450 Northridge Parkway in Sandy Springs. School officials said the moves would cost about $34 million, as compared to a projected cost of $56 million to renovate the existing buildings. The school board voted to hold future meetings at locations in both north and south Fulton.
Lake Forrest Drive closed for repairs
Last summer, city officials closed a portion of Lake Forrest Drive after multiple rock slides convinced experts the road was dangerously unstable. The city said 13 rock or mud slides had been reported since 2009 on the popular north-south route. On Aug. 5, city officials shut down the portion of the road between Lake Summit Drive and Chevaux Court. The next day, City Council ordered emergency repairs to that part of the road. The road is to reopen in 2014.
Ga. 400 tolls end
The steady rain of quarters tossed by commuters into baskets at the toll plaza at Ga. 400 ended Nov. 22. The end came either seven years early or two years late, depending on how you counted. The 50-cent-per-car toll – which at end collected $60,000 a day, much of it in quarters – originally was set to expire in 2011. But state officials extended the charge through 2020, saying the extra money would be used to improve Ga. 400. Gov. Nathan Deal reversed the decision, ordering the tolls to end, and state officials began the process of dismantling the toll plaza. By 2014, the plaza won’t even be a wide place in the road.