Fountain causes controversy in Sandy Springs approval of Veterans Park

Sandy Springs Veterans Park is scheduled to open by Veterans Day in November with a fountain that became a point of contention Tuesday before City Council approved park construction.

During a regular meeting, City Council approved construction of the $5.7 million memorial park located on a triangle across from City Springs.

Council members Andy Bauman and Jody Reichel voted in opposition and instead wanted to reduce the cost of Veterans Park to $648,000. The two Councilmembers, emphasizing they’re in favor of the park, said money dedicated for the planned fountain could be better spent elsewhere.

The memorial park will include a nearly $1.5 million water fountain across the park entrance that will mirror the same features outside the Performing Arts Center on the opposite side of Roswell Road.

City Council had to approve the park budget this week in order to break ground on March 20, and maintain a construction schedule for building the fountain, sidewalks, and site lighting for completion by its target date in November, said Mike Iezzi, the project executive with Reeves Young construction firm.

Before the vote, Councilman John Paulson said local veterans expect a fountain to be part of the park’s creation after years of watching Sandy Springs develop concepts for the space that included the water feature.

“…Fountains have now become tied in with or connected to the fact that there is a veterans memorial,” Paulson said. “And in truth, I believe the fountains enhance the power of the veterans memorial…”

During public comment three veterans urged council members to keep the fountain in the project.

“I think that fountain is a magnificent statement of memory, particular to those veterans who gave their all,” said resident Patrick Hill, who recalled his Vietnam experience while serving in the U.S. Marines.

Bauman and Reichel said the cost of the park is too excessive when other parks such as Hammond and Riverside Parks, and Morgan Falls Athletic Fields are in need of upgrades.

Bauman estimates Sandy Springs’ overall total costs for the park will exceed $10 million. The city spent nearly $5 million for the land, he said. In the mid-2010s businesses that operated at the space were forced to move.

In addition to current construction costs, Bauman figures that the fountain will release more than 800,000 gallons of water per year; and building the memorial park will include millions of dollars more for tasks not listed in the project budget.

“We are also a community founded on being responsible with taxpayer dollars,” he said.