Mansfield settles power line easement case

MANSFIELD — Town officials have negotiated a settlement of a years-long legal battle with Georgia Transmission Corp. for $250,000.

Under the settlement agreement, obtained by the Citizen through an Open Records request, GTC will pay Mansfield compensation related to a power line easement on 2.624 acres of town property that city officials said had been intended for use as a park.

The settlement is based on $25,000 for the easement, $200,000 for administrative and legal costs and $25,000 for a tree replacement program, although the city is not obligated to allot those amounts to the categories listed.

City officials have said that legal fees are approaching $125,000 to date and could be more.

According to GTC, the city property easement was needed in order to run power transmission lines through the town. GTC negotiated easement rights with private property owners, and the city property was the last remaining parcel needed. The project involved erecting large concrete poles and running power lines through the back streets of the town to a substation on Mill Pond Road.

“We believe it’s a win-win for both the city and GTC,” said Jeannine Haynes, spokeswoman for GTC. “The settlement allows us to finish a very important transmission line, which is going to ensure reliable service to over 6,000 consumers in that area. We are hoping to begin construction in the end of March and have it completed by the middle of May, just in time for the hot weather.”

As part of the settlement agreement, Mansfield agreed to dismiss its pending appeal in the Georgia Court of Appeals and GTC agreed to dismiss its condemnation action against the city involving the property located in the Carmel Church Road, 2nd Street, Poplar Street and Sixth Avenue area.

Mansfield was appealing a ruling by Newton County Chief Superior Court Judge John Ott that allowed GTC to complete its condemnation process and take possession of the property. Mansfield initially appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which transferred the case to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Haynes said GTC received a favorable ruling from the Appeals Court in March 2013 based on a technicality because the city had failed to comply with some statutory requirements. She said Mansfield then asked the Court of Appeals to hear the case again based on merit, which led to the settlement earlier this month.

GTC first met with city officials to inform them about the project in June 2011. City officials and a residents’ group opposed the power line route and GTC subsequently filed a motion to condemn the city property in June 2012. The city claimed that the property was dedicated for public use as a city park and that power of eminent domain did not extend to public property.

The power line company countered that the property was owned by Beaver Manufacturing Inc., a private company in Mansfield, which deeded the tract to the city in an effort to thwart the condemnation proceeding.

GTC claimed that there were problems with the property transfer, which rendered it invalid and that Beaver was still the owner when the condemnation was filed.

Haynes said GTC was able to settle with all private property owners in 2012.