Sandy Springs businesses that aren’t paying local taxes or fees may soon get a friendly reminder—and a bill—from a city-hired auditor.

Sandy Springs City Council on Nov. 3 approved a contract with the firm Revenue Discovery Systems to audit the city’s collection of business and occupational license fees and taxes on hotel rooms, alcohol and car rentals, among other goods and services. The agreement pays RDS a one-time cut of 27 percent of all new revenue found, though some specific parts of the deal may be paid on a hourly auditing basis rather than contingency.

That revenue could be substantial. The last time the city did this type of audit, in 2008, it found $3.8 million in new revenue, said city Finance Director Karen Ellis. And that was done internally by city staff going after “low-hanging fruit,” she said.

City Councilman John Paulson said that a downside of the previous audit was some businesses “complaining they were being treated a little heavy-handedly.”

“Some of the noncompliance was innocent noncompliance,” recalled Councilman Tibby DeJulio. “[The auditors] should treat these people with all due respect.”

City Manager John McDonough acknowledged the 2008 audit might have taken an overly aggressive tone and that the new deal will be more collaborative. RDS regional manager Ivan Figueroa agreed, saying that his company is “more successful with the kid-glove approach than the ‘gotcha’ approach.”

The auditing contract will go into effect Dec. 1, McDonough said.

In other business, the council said that Mercedes-Benz USA’s request to rename a street for itself should go alongside the creation of a formal street-naming policy. And if MBUSA is permitted to rename part of Barfield Road as Mercedes-Benz Drive, the councilmen indicated they would make it go into effect only after the luxury automaker actually moves its corporate headquarters there.

“Mercedes isn’t even in our city yet,” said Councilman Paulson. “They haven’t turned a shovelful of dirt. I’m a little concerned [about] renaming a street for a business that isn’t even here yet.”

“We don’t really have a policy on road-naming,” said Mayor Rusty Paul. Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert said that city attorney Wendell Willard advised that they should have one. Some type of suggested formal process for petitioning for renaming a road will come before the council at a later meeting. Under current process, the council will hold a public hearing and vote on  MBUSA’s request at a future meeting.

Councilman DeJulio asked about the origin of Barfield Road’s name, but no officials at the meeting knew the answer. The name appears to be connected to a Barfield family that once lived at the intersection of Glenridge Drive and Mount Vernon Highway where the First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs now stands, according to Melissa Swindell of Heritage Sandy Springs.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.