Opposition to the proposed power line that would run through Mansfield's city limits continues to grow as business leaders and elected officials join the effort to have the line's route run around the city.
Several dozen Mansfield residents attended a Tuesday open house at Newborn United Methodist Church hosted by Georgia Transmission Corporation, a non-profit group that builds power infrastructure for the state's electric membership cooperatives.
Georgia Transmission had more than a dozen experts on hand to explain the ins and outs of why the 115-kilovolt transmission line was needed, how the preferred route was chosen and how the line would be installed. The company even had a court reporter on hand to take down public comments.
Many residents expressed frustration at the fact the line would run through their town and across their property, including one man who called the route "unconscionable" because of the affect it would have on the historic town.
Mapping experts explained that the preferred route had the least environmental impact, most closely followed existing road right-of-way and was the least expensive.
The 3.2 mile route calls for the line to run north on Ga. Highway 11 to Mansfield, then run northeast along Sewell Road, run along Railroad Avenue, cross County Road 213 and head northwest back out of the city.
Georgia Transmission said the 115-kilovolt line is needed to connect a planned substation at the intersection of Mill Pond Road and Ga. Highway 11 to existing infrastructure in order to provide more power capacity to the area south of Mansfield to Monticello, as well as the Alcovy Road area and Social Circle.
Residents understand the need for a new power line, but they don't want it to run through their city, particularly when the area outside the city is very rural and Mansfield is not the key beneficiary of the additional capacity.
Beaver Manufacturing Chief Operating Officer Bill Loeble said the proposed route would bisect one of the company's vacant properties making it unusable for any future purpose.
State Sen. Rick Jeffares, Rep. Doug Holt and Chairman Kathy Morgan attended the open house to show their support for their constituents. Holt said he and Jeffares have formally requested the line be moved outside Mansfield.
Holt took the lead Tuesday sharing his concerns with officials. He said he hoped the unusually high number of concerned of citizens had impressed upon the company that it needs to take this issue seriously.
"Apparently nine times out of 10 there is not much feedback and the company goes forward," Holt said by phone Wednesday. "They have a process, but this process needs to be for real and can't just be for show; that's the message we're trying to deliver."
One of residents' concerns about Georgia Transmission is that the corporation has no direct state oversight, from the Public Service Commission or otherwise, despite the fact it has the power of eminent domain as a last resort in right-of-way negotiations.
"At the end of the day, Rick and I reserve the right to legislate. If things don't go properly, the bottom line for us as legislators is that the state has issued certain powers of eminent domain that GTC can exercise. We want to keep an eye on that," Holt said.
Residents have also received legal and technical assistance from HOPE (Homeowners Opposing Power-line Encroachment) of Georgia Chairman Mike Carter.
Georgia Transmission has already attended additional meetings with residents and has agreed to meet with the designated steering committee on Sept. 15. The meeting is not open to the public.