published Monday, December 31st, 2012

Tax break weighed for Lake Winnie

Lake Winnepesaukah
Lake Winnepesaukah
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park hopes to break ground in January on a new five-acre water park.

Park officials also hope to know by then whether they'll get a $198,050 tax break on the water park's equipment under SB 386, a new Georgia law that exempts projects of "regional significance" from state and local use taxes.

The Catoosa County Commission unanimously supported Lake Winnie's request for an abatement on local taxes at its Dec. 18 meeting.

Next step is the OK from state officials -- but many are off for holiday vacation.

"We don't know where it stands," said Tommy Dickinson, a member of the family that owns the 88-year-old amusement park. "Nobody's there right now."

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said he's gotten positive feedback from Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

"The project is the type of project they're looking for, because it is a great regional impact," Mullis said. Hotel developers have angled for the tax break, he said, but that's not what state officials have in mind.

Mullis plans to meet with Gov. Nathan Deal to familiarize him with Lake Winnie's proposal.

There's a chance that Lake Winnie's water park could be the first project to get the tax break, Mullis said.

"We're hoping so," he said.

Mullis said he's teaming up with state Reps. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, and Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, to make a case in Atlanta for Lake Winnie.

"We'll be using our legislative influence," Mullis said.

"Everyone's on Christmas break," he said. "As soon as they get back to business, we'll be on task."

Brian Williamson is deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which will have a hand in deciding whether Lake Winnie gets the tax break.

"It's an eligible project, and we look forward to reviewing the application," Williamson said.

about Tim Omarzu...

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.

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