Following the years-long legal battle over which utility has the right to provide electricity to the new Jackson High School gym, the Butts County Board of Education has voted to rewire the facility to allow the city of Jackson to serve it.
The school board voted 4-0 July 18, during a special-called meeting, to approve a bid of $30,500 from Speir and Associates Electrical Contractors to replace wiring in the gym. School board member Clifford Marshall was absent from the meeting.
The dispute over service to the gym began when the facility was being constructed in 2015. The school board chose Central Georgia Electric Membership Corp., in whose service territory the school is located, to serve the gym, which was being added to a new wing of the school that opened the previous year.
The city of Jackson, which was chosen in the 1980s to serve the high school, objected, citing a grandfather clause in the Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act when filing a complaint with state regulators. Because the school is a large user of electricity, the act gave the school board at the time the right to choose its electric provider. The city of Jackson argued the grandfather clause gives the city the ongoing right to serve the entire premises, including any expansions.
A Georgia Public Service Commission hearing officer agreed, siding with the city of Jackson in a 2017 ruling which the full commission later upheld.
Central Georgia EMC challenged the PSC’s ruling in Fulton County Superior Court in a 2018 case in which the judge sided with the commission, writing “This court finds that the new gym is an expansion of the existing Jackson High School premises, as opposed to a new premises, and accordingly, Jackson has the exclusive right to provide electrical service to the new gym under the ‘grandfather clause’ of the Territorial Act.”
The Georgia Court of Appeals, in an opinion June 25, upheld the Fulton County judge’s ruling. In a statement following the ruling, Central Georgia EMC President and CEO George Weaver indicated the co-op did not plan to appeal further.
According to the bid approved last week by the school board, the work to rewire the gym to be served by Jackson should be completed within a one-day timeframe, and result in minimal disruption to service.
“We’re eager to put this issue behind us,” Butts County School System Interim Superintendent Todd Simpson said after the July 18 vote. “I think each of our partners, in terms of the city and Central Georgia EMC, are ready to do the same.”