Sandy Springs is seeking to purchase the system operated by the city of Atlanta that provides local water, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said in his June 26 “State of the City” address.
Paul sent a letter to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms requesting a meeting this week to discuss acquiring the local portion of the water system.
“Sandy Springs has been studying this idea for some time, and we would like to discuss our ideas for purchasing the operation in Sandy Springs,” Paul wrote in the letter. “Sandy Springs is committed to making this operation a governmental function of Sandy Springs.”
Atlanta has been operating and maintaining the local water system for decades, long before Sandy Springs’ incorporation in 2005. Paul said the infrastructure has always been owned by Fulton County.
The city launched a new priority in January this year to seek improvements to the Atlanta-run water system or sue to seize control of it. Sandy Springs claims the system is aging and leaky, while Atlanta says the criticisms are all wet.
“Water is probably one of the biggest long-term frustrations in this community,” Paul said. “If you can’t get water, you’ve got a big problem,” Paul said at the event, which hosted by the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber and held at the city’s recently-completed, massive civic and theater complex City Springs.
The basic complaint is that Sandy Springs residents pay Atlanta a high premium rate for water, yet get a system suffers frequent breakdowns that go unrepaired for weeks or months.
There is “little evidence” to show there have been upgrades made to the pipes since they were installed decades ago, Paul said.
“We don’t think there’s any justification for those rates, particularly if there is no modernization happening,” he said.
Sandy Springs has offered to pay for all the studies on the condition and value of the infrastructure, and is only asking for data from Atlanta, Paul said.
The city of Atlanta has not fulfilled some open records requests seeking information on the system, Paul wrote in the letter. Atlanta is being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for noncompliance with open records law.
“Our biggest concerns are about what we don’t know,” he said.
City Manager John McDonough has been planning ways to gain control of the water system that would cost “multiple millions of dollars over the next five to seven years.” In January, he asked for $1 million in seed money in this year’s budget to fund the plan with little released details.
While officials say communications with Atlanta have improved, a deal to allow Sandy Springs make its own repairs fell through in 2017.
Repairs are getting done faster and more efficiently, but there are still problems, including malfunctioning fire hydrants, Paul said.
“I’m hoping it’s congenial,” he said. “We want to try to work out something that’s in the best interest of both of our communities.”
To view the full letter, click here.