Businesses may show renewed interest in Dawson County thanks to lower fees from Etowah Water and Sewer Authority.
As of Sept. 1, the authority will reduce its capital recovery fees for new commercial and residential water and wastewater connections.
The change should put the authority on more even footing with regional water and sewage providers.
While the fees were not lowered specifically to attract new businesses, the authority's general manager said officials are happy about the possible byproduct.
"If a developer is comparing two areas where they may wish to build, our new fees may encourage the developer to come to Dawson County," Brooke Anderson said. "And we're very excited about that."
Charlie Auvermann, executive director of the Development Authority of Dawson County, said the new rate is a positive move.
"[The reduction] will certainly make Etowah more competitive versus counties around us and in the general region," Auvermann said. "... As a county, we've got to continue being competitive in every economic aspect and this move is definitely consistent with that."
Commercial recovery fees fall into four categories: Fine dining; fast food; retail; and office.
The total fee for connecting a new fine dining restaurant will drop more than $87,000, to $138,486, while a fast food connection will fall nearly $36,000, to $63,093.
Retail shops will dip by nearly $110,000, to $182,129, with office developments falling more than $12,000, to $28,537.
The cost of a new residential connection will decline by nearly $4,000, to $7,160.
Approved by the authority's board of directors at its Aug. 16 meeting, the fee structure stems from lower growth expectations.
"We were able to reforecast our expected growth and re-evaluate the fee," said Jim King, the authority's board chairman. "We've been aware that our fees were higher than some of the surrounding providers."
The capital recovery fee is a one-time charge used to pay for existing and future services, according to Anderson.
He said the changes won't affect the authority's operations.
"The fee is a portion of the cost to provide our existing capacity and our planned future capacity," Anderson said. "So when developers pay this fee, we consider it a buy-in approach."
Due to various factors, projected growth has shrunk, leaving room to lower the fee that pays for some of that growth.
"The trend of growth is flatter than it once was," Anderson said. "... There is less capacity needing to be developed in the next 10 years."
The authority operates on a 10-year plan and all but two of its planned projects have been moved outside of that time frame.
"It would not be fair to ask new customers now to pay for something that is 15 years or more into the future," Anderson said.
Two of the capital improvement plans will go ahead as scheduled: the Russell Creek Reservoir and the Hightower Water Treatment Facility Expansion.