SANDY SPRINGS, GA — The Sandy Springs City Council on Tuesday held its first meeting of 2018, and the city’s second mayor in 12 years used the night to spell out four main goals he wants to accomplish during his second term.
Rusty Paul, along with Council members Jody Reichel, Andy Bauman, Tibby DeJulio, Steve Soteres and John Paulson, were all sworn into office at the start of the Jan. 2 City Council meeting. Soteres and Reichel are beginning their first four-year terms while Bauman, DeJulio and Paulson are all returning incumbents. Chris Burnett, who attended the Rose Bowl match between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Oklahoma Sooners, was not present, but was sworn into office for his first, four-year term before departing for California.
Paul took advantage of the sizable audience to lay out what could be dubbed his platform over the next few years, one of which has been on the collective minds of city residents and elected officials: control of water services.
As readers know, Sandy Springs relies on the city of Atlanta to provide this necessary resource, but it’s a situation that has been riddled with problems that are too great to ignore, the mayor said. Paul said the city has always dreamed of pursuing the goal of control, but held off due to concerns that federal judges could reallocate water distribution around the region. However, the mayor states the city believes this move is "very unlikely," so he’s ready to begin a conversation with the woman who was also sworn into office Tuesday as Atlanta’s 60th mayor: Keisha Lance-Bottoms.
Some examples of this "unsustainable situation," Paul said, include the city having leaks that go unrepaired for months or even years and a large number of inoperable or below-standard fire hydrants that also go months without service.
This, he added, can possibly mean that Atlanta’s water revenues for repairs and maintenance are not being appropriately expended, so an audit of the system is a necessary and crucial step in this process. Sandy Springs residents, he added, pay up to 20 percent more than other users of Atlanta’s system, which can’t be justified since the city sees little evidence that the money it’s shelling out is being invested into the system.
"A thorough audit that we are willing to pay for should give us that complete picture," he added.
The mayor is also calling for the city to continue pushing for the revitalization of the North Springs area of Sandy Springs. This area of the city is in dire need of more varied retail, a better balance of housing and more homeownership opportunities for middle and working-class residents. Paul states he’d been in talks with community leaders and housing experts to solicit ideas and will appoint a task force to recommend a path of transforming this dream into a reality.
This "hidden gem," he states, is saturated with aging, so-called Class C apartments, a lineup of housing that doesn’t go hand-in-hand with the city’s efforts to convince its first responders to live in the same jurisdiction they put their lives on the line for.
"But this also applies to our teachers, the hospital personnel who care for our sick, (and) the people who work in our retail establishments," he said. "If we are successful and make this goal a priority, we can improve the
quality of life in a key area of our community, improve the quality of our schools, build a more diverse community and revitalize an area before it becomes a problem area and create more opportunity for
middle and working-class families to begin building the wealth that homeownership affords."
Of course, the mayor also said he is looking forward to improving and expanding upon the ways residents can get around the city. This issue is a "regional affliction" and Sandy Springs is at the heart of the problem since the Perimeter area is a hub for motorists who commute from the outer banks of north metro Atlanta for work.
"We no longer have the luxury of moving everyone in one-person per vehicle increments, and I am delighted that I have led in the conversations among mayors about looking at alternative transportation means," he added.
He also noted he wants to see Sandy Springs continue to play a role in bringing new technology solutions into the equation of solving the traffic problem in metro Atlanta.
In closing, Paul also expressed gratitude to his fellow public servants who’ve worked to make Sandy Springs a better place to live, work and play and to the residents who’ve put their faith in him and others to represent them in local government.
"Finally, let me thank the citizens of Sandy Springs for their continued confidence and support," he said. "This belief in our ability to properly manage resources and projects was shown in the TSPLOST vote. An
overwhelming vote in Sandy Springs reflected the community’s confidence on our city leadership and staff. That solid vote was the margin of victory in that initiative for all of Fulton County.
"We are keeping the promises made when we started this city. We have used the revenues responsibly as our recent audits have shown. We have continued to invest those resources in improving the quality of life for all our citizens and focused our every decision on what council and I believe will benefit the community over the long-run."
Photo: Mayor Rusty Paul takes the oath of office with his family by his side. Credit: city of Sandy Springs