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Public meetings planned for Stanton Springs power line

SOCIAL CIRCLE — Georgia Power will hold two public meetings this week to inform residents about plans to install a 115 kilovolts power line that will connect a substation near Stanton Springs to another substation north of Social Circle.

The public meetings will be held Wednesday, Nov. 13, from 4 to 5 p.m. and from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Community Room, 138 East Hightower Trail, in Social Circle; and Thursday, Nov. 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Old Moore House near Stanton Springs, 13924 U.S. Highway 278, Social Circle.

According to a public notice published by Georgia Power, the power line will follow a route from the new substation under construction at Stanton Springs, where Baxter International is under development, northerly along U.S. 278, Willow Springs Church Road, East Hightower Trail Road and Knox Chapel Road to the existing East Social Circle substation. The total length of the line is about 6.5 miles.

In the notice Georgia Power states that the right of eminent domain may be exercised in order to construct and expand the transmission line.

Jim Brooks, who lives on Willow Springs Church Road, said there are 20 to 30 residents whose properties will be affected by installation of the line. Brooks said the group has gotten up a petition, planned to meet with an attorney Tuesday night, and hopes to organize an effort to have the power line route moved to nearby open property owned by the state Department of Natural Resources.

“I sat down and looked at aerial maps and I’ve come up with a much better solution where they can run the line and not affect any homeowners around here,” Brooks said.

Brooks said he and other area residents were contacted several weeks ago by a Georgia Power representative who said they would be surveying in the area. Brooks said the surveyors, in fact, came on his property and put up stakes, although he’s not sure what the stakes indicate.

Another resident complained that surveyors also came on her property without permission.

“The first thing that happened is a lady called me and told me they were going to be surveying on my street for power lines and new poles,” said Joyce Ashworth. “That’s all she told me; she didn’t tell me they would be coming in my yard.”

Ashworth said surveyors placed stakes in her yard, but, like Brooks, she isn’t sure if the stakes indicate where power poles will be installed or the right of way Georgia Power will need. Either way, she said, she will lose more than just trees and property.

“It is going to destroy the value of my property,” she said. “It’s not going to depreciate it; it’s going to knock it down. I don’t know how I could sell a house with a right of way through my front yard.”

According to the notice published by Georgia Power, the proposed transmission line will consist of guyed and self-supporting steel, concrete and/or hybrid poles. Georgia Power will use its existing transmission line right of way for a portion of the route and will need to acquire new easements in widths of 35 feet for portions of the line along or adjacent to public roads, 52.5 feet when parallel to other transmission corridors and up to 100 feet for cross-country portions of the line.

John Kraft, a spokesman for Georgia Power, said Monday that surveying of the route is ongoing and the route has not been finalized.

“The exact route in terms of which side of the street and things like that in certain spots, I believe, has yet to be finalized. That’s part of what they are surveying for,” he said.

Kraft encouraged residents to attend the public meetings in order to get more information and potentially resolve some concerns.

“We’ll have people on hand with more specific knowledge about the route and the details,” he said.

Kraft also said that use of DNR land for the power line route would not be possible due to land use regulations “that prevent us putting this type of transmission line over there.”

State Rep. Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe, said Monday he’s heard from one resident of the area about the proposed power line and noted that there are laws in place to protect citizens’ property rights.

Williamson said it’s understood that power connections are necessary for Stanton Springs. Still, he said, care should be taken to communicate with residents who will be affected by the power lines and deal with those issues in a sensitive and responsible manner.

“Eminent domain should be the last resort,” Williamson said. “I’m a property rights person. I don’t like the idea of the state having to take anything from anybody.”

Baxter International is constructing a bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Stanton Springs, a master-planned, multi-use commercial real estate development. The four-county park was developed by the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties and is located at the intersection of U.S. 278 and Interstate 20.

Baxter’s investment will total $1 billion and bring 1,500 new jobs, with the average salary at about $60,000.