27 August 2018

[MBM] - Longtime JDA Chairman Alan Verner's Farm To Be Site of Energy Substation From Stanton Springs Line Extension

As written about by the Morgan County Citizen, a proposed $27 million dollar project by the Georgia Transmission Corporation would run high voltage lines out of Stanton Springs approx. 6 miles away to Verner Farms in Morgan Co where a new substation would be built. The new Stanton Springs station would be called, "ThumbsUp" (Facebook reference, I suppose) & the Verner Farms substation would be called, "Verner Farms."

Verner Farms is owned & was operated (now closed as of a few months ago) by Alan Verner. Alan Verner is the longtime chairman of the Joint Development Authority (JDA) of Jasper, Newton, Morgan & Walton Counties which has oversight over the much-ballyhooed Stanton Springs project which includes Baxter, Baxalta, Shire & the recently-landed Facebook data center.

Several have raised concerns about this situation as to whether or not there were any improprieties, undue influence or quid pro quo involved, since this project is coming from Stanton Springs, which is under the purview of the JDA, of which Alan Verner has been the longtime Chair. So naturally I thought I'd look into it since, after all, that's what I do... 


My first step was reaching out to Ms. Terry Cole with the Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC), an entity owned by Georgia's Electric Membership Cooperatives. GTC is an organization that plans & develops energy substations & transmission lines throughout the state. As for the funding mechanism of this project, this is what I learned: 

With regard to the question about funding, the ThumbsUp to Verner Farms projects are funded the same as all GTC projects.  We borrow money from the federal RUS (Rural Utility Service) fund to finance projects, and then our costs are spread across the 38 EMCs in the state who are our owners.  

I'd also asked about the methodology they used with planning & laying out these projects. Apparently they used a siting model that factors in feasibility, cost-effectiveness, ease-of-access (using existing easements, for example) & that, according to Ms. Cole, they do not look at or even know who the landowners are until after the siting model has mapped out the best route.

So what about the specific numbers & particulars? This is what I received on that: 

Project Cost:  This includes all engineering design, civil and site work, construction, permitting, land acquisition, legal, and other associated costs.

Approximately $11 million for the ThumbsUp Substation
Approximately $8.5 million for the Verner Farms Substation
Approximately $8 million for the ThumbsUp to Verner Farms Transmission Line

My next question regarded how much was spent on land acquisition costs for the Verner Farms substation. 

As a matter of course GTC doesn’t publish land acquisition costs.  It’s included in the approximately $8.5 million total cost provided for the Verner Farms Substation. 

Also, Ms. Cole mentioned that there are three public meeting this week for any concerned citizens, AKA, "the stakeholders" (that's gotten to be a really big buzzword with governmental & quasi-governmental types, I've noticed). Those meetings are: 

The dates of the public meetings are below.  Each is a drop-in format from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Monday, August 27, 2018             
Philadelphia Baptist Church
4031 Davis Academy Rd
Rutledge, GA 30663

Thursday, August 30, 2018           
Georgia State University - Newton Campus
239 Cedar Ln Covington, GA 30014

Tuesday, August 28, 2018             
Rockdale Baptist Church - East Campus
2504 US-278 Social Circle, GA 30025

So, what to make of all of this? Good question. It does seem somewhat coincidental, being that Verner is involved with the JDA, but then again, based on the information from GTC - the JDA doesn't seem to have any involvement with this particular project. So...

We report; you decide? 

As always, thanks for reading. We'll keep an eye on it. And as we've written about in the past, there have been some definite concerns with Stanton Springs & the JDA over the years. Keep an eye out for some upcoming reports on this in the near future. 

- MB McCart, Editor

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