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February 26, 2014

County commission power line talks continue

THOMASVILLE — The rub in a Thomas County power line replacement project is that property owners will be compensated once for their land, while power lines will continue to generate revenue for installers.

So said Thomas County Commissioner Mark NeSmith at a Wednesday county commission planning session.

A proposal for a power line corridor — from Pavo to Eason Crossing — was presented to commissioners earlier this month.

The work will be done by Georgia Transmission Corp. (GTC), a Tucker business owned by Georgia electric membership corporations.

Guanine Haynes, GTC public affairs director, told commissioners on Feb. 11 some power lines serving Southwest Georgia were installed in 1927.

Georgia Transmission proposes to build a substation and install 13 miles of new electrical transmission lines in Thomas County.

The $14 million project will get under way with a survey the first quarter of this year. Easement acquisition will begin in the second quarter.

GTC, a not-for-profit company, works with Georgia Power Co. and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia to plan electric grids.

Nothing about the project is definite until after open-house meetings are conducted, Hayes said, adding that 70 Thomas County property owners will be affected.

On Tuesday night, Ronnie Cohen, who owns a considerable amount of farmland between Coffee Road and Ga. 122, addressed commissioners.

“It looks like this thing is going down Patten Speedway Road,” Cohen told the board.

Cohen asked where power poles will be erected and about their impact on his property and a pivot irrigation system on the land, pointing out that the man who farms the property must make a living.

“No survey has taken place at this point,” Haynes told Cohen.

Efforts are made to avoid pivot irrigation systems, Haynes explained.

Many farmers take pivot irrigation to roads’ edges, NeSmith interjected.

Cohen also asked what type of poles would be used — concrete or steel. Most likely both, responded Herb Payne, GTC senior project manager.

Another citizen described the power line plan as vague.

Citizen Brett Owens asked if people affected would be contacted individually or as a group. Open-house meetings are planned for early May.

NeSmith questioned GTC officials about how “devaluation” of purchased property is figured. Payne said each piece of property is evaluated by third-party appraisers, with fair market value as a starting point.

Said commission Chairman Moses Gross to GTC officials, “We didn’t get a lot of answers tonight, firm answers.” The chairman told GTC officials commissioners want to stay informed about the project so they can respond to property owners’ questions.

Haynes and Payne met again with commissioners at the Wednesday planning session.

In response to a question by commissioners, Payne said new cable and phone lines would be added to new power line poles. GTC would charge a fee for utilities to be added.

Power lines being replaced serve an area from Quitman to Thomasville, GTC officials said, adding that replacement of deteriorated lines will result in more reliable service.

Monitoring and new technology capabilities would restore power more quickly in outages, officials said.

No poles will be erected on county rights of way, and no construction is planned in the paths of pivot irrigation systems.

The work will be done in 2015. “We’re looking at a period pretty much of all of 2015,” Payne explained.

NeSmith told GTC officials he wants to ensure the company works with the owner of land on which a substation will be constructed.

Planting and harvesting of crops near the substation site would not be interrupted, GTC officials told the commissioner.

Markers will be placed on power lines in areas frequented by crop-dusting planes.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.

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