Project for power lines angers locals

MANSFIELD — A plan to run transmission lines through the neighborhoods of Mansfield by Georgia Transmission Corporation has residents fighting mad.

Residents began receiving certified letters the first of August requesting permission for survey crews to come onto their property for work related to the project, which would entail erecting large concrete poles and running power lines through the back streets of town to a proposed substation at Mill Pond Road and Ga. Highway 11.

"It's going to destroy Mansfield," said Mayor William Cocchi, who said the lines will come very close to Mansfield Elementary School. He added that the City Council is prepared to do "whatever we have to do" to stop the project.

Theresa Smallwood is a member of a growing contingent of residents who are organizing in opposition. A substation has already been constructed at Pony Express just outside town, and poles put up along Ga. Highway 11, she said. The next phase is to go through Mansfield to get power to the proposed substation at Mill Pond Road.

"It's the power poles coming through Mansfield that's got everybody up in arms. Mansfield is the historic district — all the properties front Highway 11 so they can't come through town. They are going to bypass (the center of) Mansfield and run poles through existing neighborhoods between houses. They need 50 feet right of way on each side, so that's 100 feet. They're going to clear cut trees and clear all underbrush and take a big swath everywhere where these power polls are going," she said.

Residents and elected officials will gather at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Mansfield Community Center adjacent to City Hall for an informal discussion. Then, at 7 p.m. Monday at the Community Center, concerned residents can come and hear from representatives from Georgia Transmission.

A formal public hearing is also scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 30 at Newborn United Methodist Church at 118 Church St. in Newborn. Sessions will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.

Smallwood said the group's top priority is to get the word out about the project and to that end, they've created a Facebook page under the moniker Mansfield Ga Neighbors.

"We're a tight little community out there and we think there's a better way down there (to the substation), like maybe out at Hy-Line Hatchery. That's an industrial area with no houses. We just think there are other options. We know it's coming and we know it's coming through our town, we're just trying to find a better way," Smallwood said.

Georgia Transmission Corporation is owned by 39 member distribution cooperatives. A representative with the corporation could not be reached for comment, but a letter sent to residents states that electric circuits in the area while reach capacity by late 2012, hence the need for the transmission lines and substation.

However, Cocchi and Smallwood said it's areas south of Mansfield that will be served by the additional capacity, not the town that is being impacted.

"If we were going to benefit,if it meant better service and fewer outages, that would be one thing. But we get no benefit at all," Smallwood said.

Residents have contacted local and state officials with their concerns and plan to keep raising their voices loud. Georgia Transmission's goal is to have the project completed by December 2012.