MANSFIELD - The city of Mansfield has hired an attorney to represent the city's interests in the ongoing battle with Georgia Transmission Corporation over its transmission line project.
Mayor Estona Middlebrooks said the City Council unanimously agreed to hire Donald C. Evans Jr., an attorney with Vaughn and Evans LLC law firm based in Cartersville, at a special called meeting on Jan. 12.
Middlebrooks said she did not want to comment further about the city's plans at this time.
Evans said it would be premature to comment on the city's legal strategy, adding that discussions are still underway as to what the next step should be.
"Obviously, they are concerned about the impact of the transmission line to the viability and attractiveness and economy of the city. Those concerns are well known " Evans said. "Whether the city has the ability to influence Georgia Transmission Corporation's decision is what we're looking at."
He said the issue of the constitutional power of one public entity versus another is "always a significant legal matter."
"Both entities have a constitutional mission and each is proceeding in their own way. Mansfield sees its mission as being impaired by Georgia Transmission Corporation and Georgia Transmission Corporation's mission is to provide electric power throughout the state. Which power is greater is something the city is looking carefully at," Evans said.
According to a biography on the Vaughn and Evans website, Evans specializes in eminent domain cases and has represented citizens fighting GTC in the past. In one case, Evans successfully reversed a condemnation after arguing that GTC failed to negotiate in good faith prior to using eminent domain.
GTC's plans in Mansfield involve erecting large concrete poles and running power lines through the back streets of the town to a proposed substation at Mill Pond Road and Ga. Highway 11. The lines will not go through the center of town, but the poles will run between houses. According to GTC, the transmission lines will require easements from 25 to 125 feet wide, including the right to cut and remove dead or diseased trees within 10 to 30 feet of the right of way.
A citizens' group, M.A.P.L.E., which stands for Mansfield Against Power Line Encroachment, has launched a campaign against the proposal. All but three of 35 property owners potentially impacted by the project have granted permission for GTC to survey, according to Spokeswoman Jeannine Haynes. GTC is currently seeking permission from the court to conduct the remaining surveys.
"We closed on a few properties before the end of the year. For the others our next step is to complete the surveys including environmental surveys to verify streams, wetlands, protected species, etc. We will make adjustments based on what we find in the field and the wishes of the property owner. We will then develop easement plats and begin negotiating purchase price. This activity will continue through mid-2012," Haynes said.