The city of Sandy Springs is seeking more communication between it and the Fulton County Board of Education regarding the board’s plan to possibly move Heards Ferry Elementary School and expand Riverwood International Charter School on the adjacent Heards Ferry property once it relocates.
At its meeting Tuesday night at City Hall, the Sandy Springs City Council voted 4-0 to a resolution on the subject. Councilmen Chip Collins (District 3) and John Paulson (District 1) were absent.
Before the vote, Mayor Eva Galambos said, “There’s talk of a proposed new elementary school [campus], and we’ve had no communication with the Fulton County Board of Education regarding the new [campus], although there are vast infrastructure needs to be addressed. I ask for a justification for a need for this new [campus]. Why the expansion of Riverwood? What are the enrollment projections? Why does Riverwood have students enrolled form outside the district? Has there been consideration for maintaining the old Heards Ferry campus? I’m really requesting for the school board to come to meet with us.”
District 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny, whose district includes Heards Ferry, then said, “I would like to include for the record that the school board member did volunteer the opportunity to meet with the public at Riverwood [last week].”
District 4 Councilman Gabriel Sterling then added, “[The district is] looking at numbers that do not exist,” referring to a likely decrease in apartments in the city and a population stagnancy/decrease. He also mentioned some critics of the Heards Ferry plan have made bumper stickers stating, “Do not relocate, Rebuild HFE!”
District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio then spoke on the issue.
“They [Riverwood] have 450 out-of-district students,” he said.
Sterling added, “They’ve [the district] been looking at the big picture. They’re just looking at it as, ‘We’ve got the SPLOST funds and we’re going to spend them.”
Fries then said, “The mayor and I went to one of these meetings two years ago and they talked about rebuilding [Heards Ferry]. We should have squawked more then.”
“I squawked,” Galambos said.
The school district has been criticized for how it has handled the plan. One of the proposed new locations is a cluster of six homes on the south end of Riverside Drive, according to a March 4 letter to the school board and Fulton Board of Commissioners from the Riley Place Homeowners Association, which strongly opposes the plan. According to the letter, the district may use eminent domain to acquire some of those properties.
But district officials insist it is considering 20 possible sites, and said they can’t comment further on the proposed locations because real estate matters are discussed only in the board’s executive session, and Georgia law bars them from talking publicly about them.
The district plans to select a new site or chose to rebuild Heards Ferry on its current campus by this summer, with the new campus opening by August 2015. Under the proposal, the expanded Riverwood campus would open in August 2017.
The council also announced the promotion of Police Chief Terry Sult to director of public safety. Deputy Police Chief Kenneth DeSimone was promoted to police chief. According to city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun, Sult's salary is $157,635 and DeSimone's is $140,000
“I think when you look at the complexities of the metro area and a city the size of Sandy Springs, there are different challenges we face,” Sult said of the new position. “When you look at terrorist preparedness, chemical spill preparedness, it’s not just a police issue but a public safety issue.”
In his new role, Sult will work with the police, fire and 911 departments. He also said he’s focusing on implementing the $16 million radio communications system Sandy Springs is sharing with the cities of Alpharetta, Milton and Roswell.
Galambos said Sult was promoted to the new position “because there are all kinds of communications needs, especially with the new communications [system] in the works.”
“We’re looking forward to having DeSimone as the new chief of police. He just came back from Afghanistan,” she said, referring to his recent tour of duty as a Marines reservist.
In other news, the council:
o approved by a 4-0 vote the reapportionment of the council’s districts, due to new data from the 2010 U.S. Census. The council also voted yes to reapportionment at its March 19 meeting. The new districts must be voted on twice to be approved.
o awarded by a 4-0 vote the city’s 2013 capital paving contract to Calhoun-based Northwest Georgia Paving Inc., for $2.379 million, for 13.5 miles of work.
“They have been fully vetted, and I got a good referral from the city of Roswell,” said Garrin Coleman, director of public works.
o awarded by a 4-0 vote the city’s resurfacing contract to Snellville-based E.R. Snell Contractor Inc., for $738,590.68. The contract is through the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant program, with GDOT paying $590,060.96 and the city paying the rest.
“It is budgeted,” Coleman said of Sandy Springs’ portion.
o approved by a 4-0 vote the appointment of Andy Porter to the city’s planning commission, to replace Al Pond, per Galambos' request.
“It was with great regret that I had to accept the resignation of [Commissioner] Al Pond because of a conflict of interest regarding bid up for a contract," she said. "He stepped in and at one time was on both the board of appeals and the planning commission.”
Galambos then nominated Lisa Bartlett as a new member of the city’s design review board, and her appointment was approved 4-0.