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Gas South ad campaign good for everybody? | Business

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Gas South ad campaign good for everybody?
Business

KENNESAW, Ga. -- Even if you haven't received one, chances are you've heard about the ads local governments are sending to residents, to help Gas South attract new customers.

The letters show up on government letterhead, often signed by local leaders, encouraging residents to switch their service. Residents are promised a two cent per therm discount on the company's regular rate. In exchange, the government gets $12 for each new residential account activated, $24 for each commercial customer.

Gas South says the campaign has added up to nearly $4 million in savings to customers and $5 million in payments to local governments.

"It's great for customers because they receive discounted rates, and it's great for their communities because we provide funding for projects," said Gas South CEO Kevin Greiner.

In Kennesaw, the money is earmarked for improvements to Swift Cantrell Park. Kennesaw was the first to sign on to the partnership with Gas South in 2007. Since then, Gas South says nearly 1,000 customers have taken them up on their offer, netting more than $100,000 in activation payments and other bonuses for the community.

But some residents don't think the government should be supporting one business over another, even if taxpayers benefit.

"Obviously we all like the park, that goes without saying but what they're doing is bribe, they're bribing the city or the county," said park patron and Kennesaw resident Jeff Johnson.

In Dekalb county, the first and only county so far to sign on to the partnership, the criticism has come the loudest. Some believe the ad campaign creates an unhealthy relationship between government and business.

"I don't think it's good. I think the county needs to be supplying the county services from their revenue they get from taxes," said Dunwoody resident Joseph Smith.

County spokesman Burke Brennan points out Gas South pays the cost of printing and mailing the offers. So taxpayers are out nothing.

"The revenues that are going to be generated from this will be used to defray general government obligations," said Brennan.

Gas South says its partnered with 10 cities, one county and six EMC's to offer the discounted rate.

"Naturally there are more and more people that are hearing about this type of program and I think consumers want to know how does this program, why should I sign up," said Greiner.

Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews says the partnership is no different than a cell tower contract on government property or a business sponsorship of an athletic event. While he hasn't heard any complaints about the program in his community, he knows there are other residents that have started to ask questions.

"I guess lack of trust thanks to Washington and others, lack of trust of government so everything that's done now is scrutinized a little extra," said Mathews.

Kennesaw resident Maggie Holtz doesn't understand the fuss.

"I may not look at them but I don't mind getting them in the mail," she said while playing with her son in the park.

In an earlier story, we stated Gas South was not the cheapest rate in town. We need to correct that. For some it may be. A customer needs to make sure they're comparing the right type of rates, whether it's business or residential. Six month or 12 month terms.

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