The city’s contract with a private natural gas provider will soon expire and some City Council members wonder if the city should continue its partnership with the company.
In August 2011 the council approved an agreement with Gas South that offered customers a discount on their bills and the city revenue in the form of finder’s fees.
The agreement was expected to generate up to $300,000 in revenue for the city over five years. So far, the program has brought in $13,000. Council members discussed the renewal during their Sept. 11 work session. Gas South has formed similar partnerships with cities around the Atlanta metro area.
Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos said residents are complaining about the partnership and said it hurts the city’s reputation. The city did not provide an official number of complaints it received.
“People have a very hard time understanding what this is, a relationship between us and another corporation,” Galambos said.
Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny said she didn’t like the city’s logo appearing on company letterhead.
Councilman Chip Collins said he didn’t see any reason to continue the partnership.
“If the benefit to the city is not substantial then I don’t think that’s worth involving ourselves with a private enterprise,” Collins said. “I think I’m opposed to it.”
Gas South CEO Kevin Greiner said in an emailed statement that the program has saved “tens of thousands of customers” $3.7 million since 2008.
“The alliance programs also raise funds for EMCs and municipalities, which may designate the money to a particular local project, such as a park or walking trail,” Greiner said. “In total, the alliance partners have received about $4.8 million from Gas South since the program’s inception. The program is completely voluntary and we have received no complaints from any of the government officials with our alliance partners.”
Councilwoman Dianne Fries and Councilman Gabriel Sterling argued the city should continue its partnership.
“We’re not picking these people over someone else,” Sterling said. “Nobody else came to us.”
Fries said nearly 700 residents have taken advantage of the program.
During the meeting, McEnerny asked if Gas South had donated money to the Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge bicycle race in addition to the revenues the city received through the partnership. Both Sterling and Fries serve on the board of Sandy Springs Challenge Inc., the nonprofit behind the bike race.
Fries said Gas South donated $5,000 to the event and has donated to other events in Sandy Springs.
“They’re good corporate citizens,” she said.
Fries said the partnership will likely produce more revenue for the city if the council allows it to continue.
“To me it’s just one of those public private partnerships,” Fries said. “If there were other companies out there that did a similar type program we would work with them, too.”