Sandy Springs abandons contract model, hires more than 100 workers

Sandy Springs residents won’t notice much of a change as the city transitions from an outsourced workforce to one that is primarily staffed by government employees.

That’s because the vast majority of city contractors have left their company jobs to work for the municipality full-time. Of the 139 contractors to whom the city made employment offers, 127 took the jobs, said city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun.

Since it was founded 14 years ago, Sandy Springs has been a model for privatization — the view that the private sector can run a government more efficiently than the public sector. It became a model for startup cities.

Until the recent hiring began, Sandy Springs had just 17 employees who were not police officers or firefighters. From the city’s founding in 2005 until 2008, there were six full-time employees who didn’t work in police and fire; in 2018, the number was only up to 10.

But in May, the city did an about-face when City Council voted to offer jobs to most of its contract employees instead of renewing $21 million in existing contracts with multiple companies. Over five years, officials said, the savings will be more than $14 million.

“You’ve got to look at the bottom line every time you do these things,” Mayor Rusty Paul said in May.

Most of the new workers came on board July 1, but municipal court employees and those who work in parks and recreation will start their full-time city jobs Aug. 15. The city also hired employees in the clerk’s office, communications, community development, economic development, facilities, finance, IT and public works.

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John McDonough, the city manager until Aug. 2, said most of the openings are in the area of public works. He said there has already been interest in the jobs, and some positions have drawn hundreds of applications.

McDonough also said he expects the city to save $500,000 more than previously estimated. That puts Sandy Springs “well over $3 million” in savings, he said.

Still, Paul said he can’t guarantee that the city will eschew the private sector permanently. If in a year it makes more financial sense to hire contractors again, he said, that’s what Sandy Springs will do.

“If it doesn’t make sense, we’ll go away from it until it makes sense again,” Paul said.

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