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Holt introduces bill in Mansfield power line fight
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Mansfield residents continue to fight efforts by Georgia Transmission Corporation to place new power lines through the small city’s limits, including exploring legal redress and a state law change.

State Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle) introduced H.B. 688 Monday, which would make groups like Georgia Transmission ultimately answer to the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The conflict in Mansfield stems from GTC’s plans to build a new substation near the intersection of Mill Pond Road and Ga. Highway 11 and then run a power line through Mansfield to connect to existing infrastructure north of the city.

The line is needed because power capacity is reaching its limits in the area, but Mansfield residents don’t understand why a line that won’t even serve their power needs has to run through a city that’s roughly one square mile in size.

A group of Mansfield residents proposed alternate routes, which GTC considered but ultimately rejected because of cost, environmental and other concerns. However, Mansfield residents said GTC’s reasons are largely bogus and that the driving factor is cost.

After several meetings, GTC broke off talks and proceeded with its original plans. GTC attempts to negotiate with any residents its projects affect, but it has the ultimate power of eminent domain if necessary.

Holt’s new bill seeks to change that. His bill would require GTC and other utility-related companies to submit a map to the local government their project is affecting. The local government would then have to approve the map. If the two sides can’t decide on a map, the matter would then go to the Georgia Public Service Commission, which would make the final binding decision.

The bill is scheduled to go to committee, perhaps by late January, Holt said Thursday, where it will either be sent on for a vote, altered and sent for a vote or rejected.

GTC spokeswoman Jeannine Haynes said the current process required under H.B. 373, which includes open houses and community meetings, work.

“GTC makes changes to most transmission line projects based on the input we receive from property owners and the community. Sometimes we are able to make changes to the transmission line route; more often we are able to make changes for individual property owners,” Haynes said in a Thursday email.

“As much as we wanted to find something different, we were not able to do that here (in Mansfield’s case). We found in every case that the alternatives had a greater impact to private property and the environment than the route we chose.”

Resident Todd Hilton, of the group Mansfield Against Power Line Encroachment (MAPLE), said GTC has not made a good faith effort to negotiate with residents. He said the city of Mansfield is considering pursuing legal action.

“We’re trying to hit it from all areas and trying to take one day at a time,” Hilton said earlier this week.

Haynes said that 32 of the 35 affected property owners have given GTC permission to survey, and GTC is asking a judge to give GTC permission to enter the remaining three properties that have not signed a survey permit.