A Vote 30 Years in the Making

It likely will be the most important vote taken in metro Atlanta this year - and, odds are, you aren't invited.

Only the 85,000 residents of Sandy Springs will be able to go to their local polling place June 21 to determine whether their put-upon community will become its own city.

The smart money, of course, is on "yes" to cityhood, considering that no organized opposition to its creation has yet surfaced. So far, Fulton County has collected 1,000 absentee ballots, and this past Monday morning, people were lined up outside the North Fulton Annex Building in Sandy Springs to take advantage of early voting - both signs of a strong local turnout.

Some polls predict an overwhelming 80-20 split favoring incorporation. The inevitability of Tuesday's vote seems to have sunk in, even in south Fulton, where county residents will see as much as $25 million drained from the coffers if Sandy Springs becomes a city.

At a town hall meeting last week at Welcome-All Park just off South Fulton Parkway, Fulton Commission Chairwoman Karen Handel faced no tough questions about her willingness to see the incorporation go forward. A crowd of about 150 listened politely as Handel explained how the loss of Sandy Springs' tax revenues will "give the county a unique opportunity to rethink the way we do business," then peppered her with the usual queries about local traffic, street lamps and trash pickup.

Of course, after Tuesday's vote the real fun begins. Assuming voters approve the new city, Gov. Sonny Perdue will appoint a five-member committee to begin planning how to provide municipal services, such as police, fire, zoning, and street repair. A host of aspiring politicians will quickly step forward to run for mayor and council seats in the Nov. 8 elections. And on Dec. 1, Sandy Springs will finally, officially, become Georgia's newest city.

The new mayor and council, however, face an unenviable ordeal: wrangling with Fulton officials about a fair price to pay the county to transfer ownership of such assets as fire stations, police precincts and local parks. Look forward to a real knock-down, drag-out once those negotiations are underway.??

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