Dunwoody, GA: Day One

Georgia’s fifth new city in recent years, Dunwoody, officially opened its doors today:

Dunwoody got down to business Monday morning on the first day of Georgia’s newest city. Phone lines were up at 7:30 a.m. and the doors of the temporary City Hall ââ?¬â?? located in neighboring Sandy Springs ââ?¬â?? opened at 8 a.m. The first recorded visitor was a guy who installed a copy machine. By 10 a.m., the city manager was leading a staff meeting with all department heads. About 15 minutes later, the public works department got its first two calls, both about that most essential of local services: trash collection. One person wanted to report a leaking garbage truck and another wanted to know who was going to collect the trash. The answer: the same people as last week. The fledgling city is still relying on DeKalb County to provide key services, such as police protection and trash collection. City leaders have yet to decide how to offer some services. They have until Dec. 31 to finalize negotiations with the county, since Dunwoody residents have already paid for a full year of county services through their tax bills. The city has been operating on a tight schedule. Voters chose cityhood in a referendum just four months ago, and they picked their city leaders less than 10 weeks ago. Despite the haste, the first few hours Monday seemed to go smoothly, city attorney Brian Anderson said. “Everything’s going excellent so far,” Anderson said. “There haven’t been any issues that have come through in the last couple hours.”

Five new cities–Sandy Springs, John’s Creek, Milton, Chattahoochee Hills, and Dunwoody–have incorporated in metro Atlanta since 2005 and, as “contract” cities, have relied largely upon a privatized city government model in which private contractors provide almost all non-safety related services. See Reason’s Annual Privatization Report 2008 for an update on this new wave of privatized cities in Georgia. The first four cities in the list above all utilize the same firm, CH2MHill-OMI, to provide all of their contracted services. Dunwoody leaders ultimately took a different (and IMO, somewhat riskier) direction by contracting out bundles of services. The city has hired Boyken International to steer the contracting processes (see discussion of current contracting here), and it has also recently hired a city manager, one of the likely few public-sector positions in the new city (Sandy Springs has less than ten non-safety related public employees, for example). Also don’t miss founding father Oliver Porter’s new book, Public/Private Partnerships for Local Governments, which describes how existing local governments can learn from Sandy Springs, et al., by utilizing public-private partnerships to dramatically improve the quality and delivery of municipal services. Lastly, check this out as just one example of the sort of thing that the new cities now have better options to deal with. Reason’s Annual Privatization Report 2008 Reason’s Privatization Research and Commentary