On February 14, 2003, the City of LaGrange filed a petition against Diverse Power alleging that Diverse Power was improperly serving a new fine arts facility located near Troup County High School. Docket No. 16599-U. The City also alleged that Diverse Power was improperly serving the ball field lights at the high school.
The City argued that the fine arts facility is an expansion of the high school, which the City has been serving for many years. Diverse Power maintains that the fine arts facility is not an expansion of the high school, and that Diverse Power has the right to serve this facility by virtue of corridor rights. The City also alleged that it had recently discovered that Diverse Power had been improperly serving the ball field lights at the high school for about seven years. Diverse Power agreed that it had no right under the Territorial Act to serve the ball field lights, but contended that it had extended service to the lights pursuant to a verbal agreement with the City.
On October 29, 2004, the Hearing Officer ruled in favor of Diverse Power with regard to both the fine arts facility and the ball field lights. The Hearing Officer held that the fine arts facility was a separate premises from the rest of the high school campus. Among other things, the Hearing Officer noted that the fine arts facility was physically separate from the rest of the buildings and was available for use by outside groups in addition to school groups. The Hearing Officer also observed that the City historically had served the buildings of the high school through at least four separate meters, with charges to one building calculated independently from charges to another. The Hearing Officer gave little credence to the City’s eleventh-hour change to a master meter for the entire high school campus. Since the fine arts facility was a separate premises, Diverse Power could serve it pursuant to corridor rights.
Regarding the ball field lights, the Hearing Officer found that the parties had a verbal agreement that Diverse Power could extend service to the lights. This arose when Diverse Power was asked to donate poles for the ball field. Diverse Power was willing to donate the poles so long as it had the City’s consent to provide electric service to the lights. While the City had no recollection of having given such consent, the Hearing Officer found that such an agreement existed. The Hearing Officer also held that in any event, the City knew or should have known of Diverse Power’s extension of service to the ball field lights based on evidence that (1) the lights and Diverse Power’s transformer were plainly visible to the City’s meter readers, who would have had to pass by the transformer repeatedly to read a city meter at the high school; and (2) the City received a utility “locate” ticket from Diverse Power in 1996, which called upon the City to mark its facilities at the high school so that Diverse Power could place underground cable to serve what could only have been the ball field lights. In light of these facts, the Hearing Officer held that the City had waived any right to serve the ball field lights.
On September 7, 2005, the full Public Service Commission voted unanimously to affirm the Initial Decision of the Hearing Officer. The City of LaGrange filed a petition for appeal to the Superior Court of Fulton County in October 2005. A hearing was held on August 2, 2006. On February 7, 2008, the Court issued a verbal ruling upholding the Commission’s findings.
The City of LaGrange appealed the decision to the Georgia Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals issued an order on March 13, 2009, upholding the Commission’s decision in full. The deadline for filing a notice to Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the Georgia Supreme Court has passed, and this decision is now final.