Sandy Springs, the city that has received national attention for its public-private partnership model that started when it was incorporated in December 2005 and was copied by other new cities, is changing course.
Starting in July, Sandy Springs will bring in house all of the services provided privately in the current fiscal year.
“The city has pioneered the public/private partnership service delivery model, but, we believe, due to the robust economy and very tight labor market, private sector bidders did not deliver the prices we expected,” Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said in a news release. “We frequently compare the private-sector offerings we receive with the in-house cost of delivering services and have elected in the past to rely on the private sector due to cost, flexibility and innovation.”
During a special called meeting May 14 at City Springs, the Sandy Springs City Council voted 5-0 to approve a resolution to cancel its solicitations for general government services with the intent of bringing those services in house. District 1 Councilman John Paulson was absent.
Beginning July 1, services including public works/TSPLOST, community development, IT, finance, economic development, communications, facilities and performing arts center operations will be conducted by employees of the city versus contracted staff. Recreation and parks and Municipal Court contracts will be terminated, transitioning to city-provided services Aug. 15.
“In this recompete, the gap between private-sector prices and in-house costs for these services was such we cannot justify the difference,” Paul said. “We are not abandoning the P3 model and are keeping some private-sector providers for services where the costs make sense. We will continue to evaluate P3 options with in-house service delivery and will again ask the private sector to bid on these services when job conditions and other market forces allow us to obtain competitive prices. Meanwhile, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our taxpayers to deliver our services as the lowest cost and most efficient manner possible.”
The city estimates it will save more than $14 million over five years as compared with the proposed costs in using private-sector partners.
From 2005 until 2010, the city used a public-private partnership model for service delivery with CH2M Hill, an Englewood, Colorado-based company, being the sole provider of the private contracted services. In 2010, the city moved from a single-source provider to contracting with seven private companies, saving Sandy Springs an estimated $7 million per year over five years. In 2018, the city transitioned department heads from contract to city-held positions. The current transition will move about 183 positions from contract to city-held positions, bringing the total of city-held positions to 482.
While the move is a substantial shift, as Paul said, Sandy Springs will continue to use a hybrid model of outsourced and city-provided services. The city’s call center and 911 services, as well as public works field services, fleet services, city attorney’s office and Municipal Court solicitor will remain with private-sector partners, with those contracts valued at more than $11 million.
“Sandy Springs is known for its efficiency and focus on customer service, and working collaboratively with our contracting partners, we have delivered residents a high level of service delivery,” Paul said. “We will continue to annually evaluate our operations to explore how to provide services better, faster and the most economically, adapting our model to best meet the needs of the community.”