RINGGOLD, Ga. -- The Catoosa County Board of Commissioners unanimously backed a tax break Tuesday night of $85,050 for Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park for its new five-acre water park.
Next step for Lake Winnie will be to get a $113,000 tax break from state officials.
The family-owned park is hoping to squeeze as much value as it can out of its $6.3 million investment in the water park and hopes to get sales and use taxes waived on new equipment it will buy and build for the water park.
"This is a company that's really going out on a limb financially," park representative Tommy Dickinson told commissioners. "They're laying it on the line."
He said the $198,050 in abatements of state and county sales and use taxes will be more than repaid by an estimated $1.2 million in sales taxes generated over five years from ticket sales and other money water park visitors spend.
Commissioner Jeff Long praised Lake Winnie for beating out neighboring Whitfield County where tourism officials were eyeing a water park.
"Glad you'll get the upper hand and are bringing it to Catoosa County," said Long. He added that as a teenager, "That was my first job, working at Lake Winnie."
State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, plans to take Lake Winnie's request for approval to Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The abatement is available through SB 386, a new Georgia law that exempts projects of "regional significance" from state and local use taxes.
Dickinson said he learned of the tax break by chance.
"I Googled to see what might be available," he said. "I stumbled across it."
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Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.