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Posted: November 12, 2013 8:52 p.m.

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New power line to serve Baxter

Some Social Circle residents oppose route

Courtesy of Georgia Power/

The attached PDF shows the proposed route for a new transmission line for Georgia Power; the line will serve Baxter International and the Stanton Springs industrial park.

As construction continues on Baxter International’s $1 billion manufacturing plant, Georgia Power is working to provide power to the plant and surrounding area and is planning to build a 6.5-mile power line from the plant northeast through Social Circle.

Georgia Power is holding public meetings today (Wednesday) and Thursday as part of the process required by the state, and some residents are going to urge the company to seek an alternate route that would affect fewer homes.

Two meetings will be held today, including one from 4–5 p.m. and another from 6–7:30 p.m. at The Community Room at 138 E. Hightower Trail in Social Circle. The third meeting will be in Newton County from 6–7:30 p.m. at the Old Moore House, just west of Stanton Springs industrial park, at 13924 U.S. Highway 278, Social Circle.

The proposed 115-KV transmission line route starts from the under-construction electrical substation at Stanton Springs industrial park, crosses Interstate 20 and heads east and northe ast along Highway 278. The route then splits off and follows Willow Springs Church Road, runs behind the General Mills distribution center and onto East Hightower Trail and then onto Knox Chapel Road. It then runs parallel to an existing power line and ends at the East Social Circle substation.

Survey work is ongoing, and property acquisition is set to take place in early 2014, with construction starting in late spring 2014, according to a Georgia Power flyer about the project.

Jim Brooks, a resident who lives on Willow Springs Church Road, said he believes the proposed line will go through his and his neighbor’s front yards, and they’re proposing an alternate route. He said Tuesday a possible alternative would be to run the power line along the Social Circle Bypass Road, both the existing section and one under construction, which are north of the current proposed route.

Another thought had been to have the power line run on the other side of Willow Springs Church Road through property owned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources; however, a Georgia Power spokesman said a transmission line of this size would not be not allowed on DNR land because of the department’s land-use regulations.

The width of the right-of-way for the line is expected to be 35 feet when it runs alongside roads. The line will consist of guyed (tied down with cords or cables) and self-supporting, steel, concrete and/or hybrid poles that are approximately 80 feet tall, according to the company’s flyer.

Brooks and other residents met Tuesday night to speak with attorney Don Evans, who is helping the city of Mansfield in a legal power-line fight with the Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC). GTC is building a power line through the city, and some residents and city officials fought the power line.

Currently, the Georgia Court of Appeals is considering a case to decide whether the power company is able to complete the line and cross over city-owned property. Companies are generally not allowed to use eminent domain (property seizure) rights on public property, but in this case GTC is challenging that ruling because the publicly-owned land was deeded to the city by Beaver Manufacturing after the route had been identified.

Brooks said the key for area property owners is to be aware of their legal rights when dealing with power companies. He said he and neighbors oppose the line’s presence because of what it will do to their aesthetic view and property values and because it will result in many trees being cut down. He expected 15–20 people at the Tuesday night meeting of residents.

One option that was considered but rejected was building underground power lines. While that option is being used more extensively for aesthetic reasons and to prevent damage from weather, it is a costly alternative. According to national sources, underground lines can cost 10 times as much as overhead lines, or $1 million per mile or more, depending on geography.

Georgia Power said it rejected underground lines because of initial cost and the fact the lines would cost more and take longer to repair in a power outage.

Georgia Power said it needs the transmission line because of expected growth in the area. Baxter International was the first industry to locate in Stanton Springs industrial park, but area officials expect many more industries to locate in the 1,620-acre park.

Newton County commissioners John Douglas and Levie Maddox said they have not heard any resident complaints, but very few Newton County residents live in the affected area.

State Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) said he had one citizen contact him wanting to make sure that if land were taken the citizen would be fairly compensated. Williamson said there is a significant amount of case law that deals with condemnation, so the process should be established. Public meetings are required in any case where eminent domain may be used.

Georgia Power said it may exercise its right of eminent domain; however, property owners must be compensated under state law. Power companies normally use eminent domain powers after exhausting land purchase negotiations.

Williamson said he would advise concerned property owners to seek legal counsel to protect their interests.

"As a property rights guy, (eminent domain) needs to be the absolute last resort," Williamson said. "The bottom line is: I hope everyone is treated fairly."

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