by: Jim Strickland Updated:
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A local gas marketer is trying to drum up business using DeKalb County's stationery, reported Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland.
County officials are giving their blessing, and getting money in return.
Tens of thousands of residents will receive in the mail a discount offer of 2 cents per therm from Gas South. The takers are eligible whether they are signing up for new service or are current customers.
The utility and the county say the arrangement is a partnership but residents contacting Channel 2 Action News saw red flags.
"Let's be clear: A lot of people would call this junk mail," Strickland said while showing the offer sheet and DeKalb envelope to Gas South CEO Kevin Greiner.
"Well, I don't consider it junk mail at all," he said. "I would expect that thousands of new customers would sign up."
For new newly signed DeKalb
customer, the county receives a $12 finder's fee. A commercial account wins $24. The county would also get a dollar per month per new customer. The money goes to the general operating fund.
Gas South gets to use county stationary, which is less likely to be trashed as junk mail. To offer 2 cents off and a $50 credit, the marketer paid $50,000 to mail them to 95,000 homes. No county monies were expended, both Greiner and county officials say.
"They're getting a vehicle. People are actually going to open the envelope and read the paper," said county spokesperson Burke Brennan.
for Michael Belle Isle, a resident who emailed Channel 2 after receiving the solicitation.
"It made a difference that it said DeKalb County on
it?" Strickland asked.
"Very specifically," replied Belle Isle, who said he thought the envelope may contain a tax document.
"I just sat there and said, 'What's going on now with DeKalb County?'"
"Some people have a natural suspicion about their government and the exchange is a healthy one," said Brennan.
"People want to see what DeKalb County is doing, and maybe that's why more people are taking notice of it,"
Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton was among the suspicious, after Strickland showed him the mailing. It was Eaton's first time seeing it..
"I don't know the law on this, but I would think to have a county favoring one marketer would be an issue," he said.
checked and deemed the offer legal, as it its a reduction the the rates published with the commission.
Gas South says 10 local cities and a half dozen EMC utilities are getting the same break. The cities have earned less than $700,000 since the program began four years ago.
EMCs have earned more than $4,000,000. Greiner said the use the funds to keep rates low.