The city of Sandy Springs has outlined a tentative phased reopening plan for City Hall and other functions, with in-person City Council meetings possibly returning June 15 and community events no earlier than July 6.
Even if that schedule holds, there will be new precautions and ways of doing business, such as live streaming of council meetings — something the city did not offer before the pandemic — and limited attendance at events. The first phase quietly began May 18 with the unannounced return of some employees to the still-shuttered City Hall.
The city wrestled with multiple scenarios for events and staffing during a budget workshop and a council meeting, both held virtually May 19. They also described the phased approach for reopening the city’s parks and other venues.
Communications Director Sharon Kraun explained the framework created by a city reopening committee and said actual dates will depend on public health officials’ guidelines. Kraun said entry to City Hall and events would require temperature checks and screenings, and adherence to social distancing guidelines.
Phase 1, May 18
Staff began to transition back to work at City Hall. Many continue to telework from home. All employees are using a single entry point and are screened for COVID-19 symptoms, including by having their temperatures taken. Meetings with developers and potential bidders on city projects have worked well virtually, Kraun said. Plans are to continue in that mode, possibly as a permanent change.
Phase 1.5, June 1
Some public park features to reopen, including tennis courts; the Morgan Falls dog park and paddle shop; and the Hammond Park gymnastics camps. Cleaning and sanitizing protocols would be observed. The city would encourage participation limits for social distancing purposes.
Phase 2, June 15
In-person meetings of the City Council and city boards and commissions to resume in the Studio Theatre. Live streaming on Facebook Live and Zoom would continue as an option.
Phase 3, July 6
The earliest date for or city-sponsored events, but under social distancing guidelines. Free events would be ticketed to limit attendance, and entry points would be restricted in what Kraun said would be a “labor-intensive” process. Still being worked out is table seating and food truck arrangements at public concerts. “What we don’t want to do is create a situation where things are kind of at odds with each other,” said Shaun Albrechtson, executive director of the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. “Moving forward is challenging for sure.”
Events normally held in the Performing Arts Center could shift outdoors to meet anticipated updates to social distancing guidelines. The Byers Theater could see smaller attendance, closer to 300 rather than its 1,000-seat capacity, said Albrechtson. He said in discussions he’s had with other industry professionals the consensus considers seating limits of 30% capacity as their expectation for the slow resumption of events at public facilities.
The Sandy Springs Farmers Market already resumed business using curbside pickup. Kraun said officials hope to expand it in mid-June in retail form on Galambos Way in City Springs. Vendors would be situated to create social distancing and shopping distance for customers. Mask use would be encouraged.
The City Springs conference center would reopen to groups of under 50. Smaller groups would be able to use the former Heritage Sandy Springs building on Blue Stone Road. Health safety protocols would be followed at every venue, with temperate checks, staggered meeting times, a limited number of events and rentals to keep groups separated.
Special event permits won’t be issued until phase three, so road races and events that impact the community and traffic must wait. The organizations requesting special event permits must share their plans with the city in their applications.
“Applicants must include health safety plans including social distancing, cleaning and sanitization and worker safety,” Kraun said.
The city already canceled its annual Stars and Stripes fireworks event originally scheduled for July 4. And it will convert the Lantern Parade into a “parade-in-place” weekend event June 19-21.