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No court action regarding transmission line project filed yet

Nearly two months after saying court action would be filed in connection with a power line project in northwest Cairo, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia has taken no such action.
MEAG notified members of the Northwest Neighborhood Association in writing on Feb. 13 of its intention to seek a declaratory judgment action in Grady Superior Court to determine the utility’s legal rights with respect to a proposed transmission line upgrade in northwest Cairo under the “various easement agreements.”
According to Grady County Clerk of Superior Court Debbie Kines’ office, as of Tuesday no declaratory judgment action had been filed by MEAG.
City of Cairo officials said in February they believe MEAG is seeking judgment from the court that MEAG’s existing easement would allow for the erection of larger utility poles to carry the upgraded transmission line through northwest Cairo to the #1 substation located at the electric plant and Energy Services complex downtown.
Last fall, when northwest Cairo residents learned of the power company’s plan to install new 95-foot-tall metal utility poles in their residential neighborhood, they cried foul and have actively been working to stop the project in its tracks.
If the upgraded line has to go through the northwest neighborhood, the majority of the residents have voiced support for the line to remain on its existing path, which has been in place since 1952.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton said in February that the 1950s easement is “vague” and “arcane” and MEAG is seeking clarification as to their legal rights.
According to MEAG Manager of Engineering & Construction Ben Boucher, this process will allow “all of the affected parties to express their views to the court with respect to these issues.”
The letter from MEAG, of which Cairo is a member, goes on to state, “Once the court declares our legal rights, MEAG Power will determine the most appropriate path forward within the legal rights determined and good utility practices.”
MEAG originally contacted representatives of the Strickland and Derby families in hopes of negotiating an expanded easement for the project so that it could remain on its existing path, but the families rejected that proposal opting to grant an easement along Sixth Street N.W., which angered many of the other northwest Cairo residents.
Residents did not learn about the project until it was reported in The Cairo Messenger last fall that the City of Cairo had granted easements for the redirected line and that 95-foot utility poles similar to ones installed through the downtown business district would be installed in the northwest neighborhood.
MEAG officials met with local residents on Sept. 28 to discuss the proposed new route of the transmission line and the history of the project and MEAG’s negotiations with the Stricklands and Derbys.
Following that meeting, MEAG officials attempted to get the two families to negotiate an agreement to leave the line on the existing path, but those talks broke down in November.
The city council voted 3-1 last November to rescind previous action to grant right-of-way easements to MEAG for the electric transmission line project, but MEAG has not officially responded.
The upgrade of the line is needed, according to MEAG officials, to provide the city redundancy and allow the city to back-feed power in the event of an outage.
The line to be upgraded, according to MEAG, is the only primary feed to the Cairo #1 substation, which is located downtown at the electric plant. Another transmission line that was recently constructed connecting the #1 substation with the #3 substation cannot be put into use until the project in northwest Cairo is completed, officials say.
Cairo City Councilman Jerry Cox, who represents northwest Cairo, and City Manager Addleton said this week that they have had no additional communication with MEAG officials regarding the project.

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