MANSFIELD -- Georgia Transmission Corporation is attempting to condemn property the city of Mansfield claims is a public park.
GTC filed for condemnation in Newton County Superior Court on June 11. The city of Mansfield filed a motion to dismiss on July 2, stating that the property is currently dedicated for public use as a municipal park and power of eminent domain does not extend to public property.
GTC countered in its response that the property was owned by Beaver Manufacturing Inc., a private company, which deeded the roughly 2.6 acres to the city to thwart the condemnation. The warranty deed is dated June 28.
The property is an L-shaped parcel surrounded by Carmel Church Road, 2nd Street, Poplar Street and Sixth Avenue.
GTC says there were problems with the transfer rendering it invalid, and Beaver was still the owner of the property when the condemnation was filed. The response does not specify the nature of the problems of the deed transfer. GTC also says that its easement and the public park can co-exist, and the property can be legally condemned.
Right now, both sides are waiting for a judge to rule in the matter.
Clearing activities began Monday, but the city has since issued a stop work order and those activities have been suspended, according to GTC spokeswoman Jeannine Haynes. City officials had previously signed off on the clearing at a meeting held with GTC, she said.
Negotiations are complete on 22 of the 24 easements targeted by GTC. A condemnation is also sought to clear the title to a piece of property that was never probated and was inherited by a private property owner.
"We believe he is going to work with us; he can't convey the easement until the title has been cleared," Haynes said, adding that the best way to clear up the matter is to file for condemnation.
The property the city claims it owns is the only other parcel needed by GTC for its project, which involves erecting large concrete poles and running power lines through the back streets of the town to a substation on Mill Pond Road.
"The new transmission line is needed to provide reliable electric service to this area. Utilities in Georgia have the right of eminent domain to prevent an individual or an entity like the city from denying an essential service to an entire community. GTC worked diligently to reach an agreement with the city just like we did with the private property owners. Because of the need to complete the project by December, we had no choice but to file condemnation. This doesn't mean that we won't continue to work to reach an agreement. It simply means that we ran out of time," Haynes said.
Construction on the transmission line is slated to begin in mid-October. The substation is scheduled to be completed in September and both will be in service by December "to ensure reliable service during the cold winter months. The demand for power peaks in winter in this area because most people heat their homes and businesses with electricity," Haynes said.
The project has angered Mansfield residents who organized a grassroots campaign to prevent GTC from taking the route through town. It motivated proposed legislation by Rep. Doug Holt, R-Social Circle, that would have required disputes between local governments and subsidiary companies to go through binding arbitration by the Public Service Commission. The bill did not make it out of the House.
Haynes said there is already a law, House Bill 373, that regulates transmission line location.
"Locating a new transmission line is a balancing act between the wishes of property owners or a community group and meeting the electrical needs of the greater community," she said. "This particular project is a great example of the current law working very well. We received input and thoroughly examined several alternatives that were offered by individual property owners and a small group of citizens. We have been very transparent in our communication throughout the process."