A 3.2 mile, 115kilovolt power line is scheduled to run through the town of Mansfield, but area residents have organized and are hard at work searching for an alternate route to protect home values and the town's scenic integrity.
Power capacity is reaching its limit in the area, particularly from south of Mansfield to Monticello, so Georgia Central EMC is requesting a new power line, said Jeannine Haynes, a spokeswoman for Georgia Transmission Corporation. The line would also serve Alcovy Road and Social Circle.
While residents understand the need for the line, they don't understand why it has to run through Mansfield - a town barely larger than a square mile - and through homeowners' yards when the surrounding county is more rural.
The current line would affect 40 property owners, Haynes said.
"GTC considered over 100 segments to come up with about eight viable alternative routes. The preferred route is a result of months of data gathering, research and analysis," Haynes said in an email. "We believe the preferred route makes sense from an engineering, community and environmental perspective. Obviously there are community members that don't agree with this."
Carol Jones, who lives on County Road 213, is one of five members who have formed a steering committee to act as the town's representatives to Georgia Transmission.
"It's going right through the town, which is not that big, and we just don't see how that's justified being the preferred route," Jones said Friday. "It will include easements (between 25 and 125 feet) and because GTC likes to follow property lines, it really does appear to be zigzagging through the town."
At the request of the residents, the two sides had a public hearing Monday where residents expressed concerns and asked questions of Georgia Transmission staff. Both sides said the meeting was productive and they hope an amiable compromise can be reached.
Residents' concerns included scenic degradation of a historic community, declining property values for adjacent homeowners and potential health affects of electromagnetic fields created by the high-voltage transmission lines.
According to the county's 2008 Land Use Ordinance, Mansfield is named a rural, historic community where the county should discourage the extension of public utilities, Jones said. Georgia Transmission officials said at the Monday meeting they were not aware of the ordinance.
Residents believe home values would decline because of the aesthetic decline, as well as the possibility that high-voltage lines are harmful to health.
Research is inconclusive as to whether electromagnetic fields created by high-voltage transmission lines are harmful to health, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among several other sources. However, other studies point to an increased presence of childhood leukemia. People are submitted to similar electromagnetic fields through several types of electronic devices.
"Despite more than two decades of research to determine whether elevated EMF exposure, principally to magnetic fields, is related to an increased risk of childhood leukemia, there is still no definitive answer," according to the EPA's website.
Haynes, the spokeswoman, said power lines are everywhere and many people are used to living close to them, and added that radiation from power lines falls off rapidly as distance increases and the 40-60 foot height of poles reduces any risk.
Regardless, Jones said she and the other members of the committee are looking for alternate routes that will pass through woods, pastures or light industrial areas as opposed to neighborhoods. Residents Todd Hilton, Tom McCurley, Johnny Roquemore and Theresa Smallwood are also on the steering committee.
The preferred route was among the least expensive, but Haynes said cost is only one factor along with environmental and engineering concerns. Georgia Transmission and all EMCs, like Snapping Shoals, are non-profit groups, so if a power line costs more to build that cost would simply be passed on to the ratepayers. In this case, Central Georgia EMC is paying for the line because they requested it. Georgia Transmission is owned by the state EMCs.
"EMCs pay us for the cost to build the line and then charge the customers to recoup the costs," Haynes said.
In addition to the transmission line, a substation will be built near the intersection of Mill Pond Road and Ga. Highway 11. The existing 46-kilovolt line running from Ga. 11, north of Mansfield, to Alcovy Road will be also be upgraded to a 115-kilovolt line.
The next step is for the steering committee to examine and work with several proposed routes created by Georgia Transmission in the hopes of finding or creating an alternate route.
Georgia Transmission is hosting two open houses Aug. 30 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Newborn United Methodist Church, 118 Church St. in Newborn.
Jones said many Mansfield residents are planning to attend the evening open house, and they have requested that Georgia Transmission meet again after the open house to give residents time to digest information and come up with an alternative.