It was standing room only as residents of Poland Village and from the surrounding communities packed Village Hall on Feb. 7 for the Poland Village Council meeting. Almost all attending were there to speak on or learn more about the possible lease of Poland Municipal Forest for drilling.
Public comment started off with Atty. Damian DeGenova addressing council on representation for any possible gas leases. He said he had formed a company to represent land owners who have been approached by gas companies. He said it was important to insure things are done properly.
"We in this area have been inundated with lease offers," DeGenova said. "We would like to present a whole package that to landowners and municipalities to insure property is protected."
A second speaker that was on the agenda was representatives from Chesapeake, a company that has been seeking leases for drilling wells and using fracking to get to the gas and oil. The representatives did not show.
When the forum opened up for public presentation, the comments against drilling in the woods were non-stop for over an hour. It kicked off with David Sabine stating his concern about polluting Yellow Creek.
"I'm not opposed to economic expansion and drilling," he said. "I am concerned about the watershed. This (fracking) is a new untested procedure and experimenting with public land is no way to find out about it. Financial opportunities and environmental risk need to be balanced."
Sabine, who lives in Poland Township, also stated that 131 wells in Ohio were cited last year for contamination.
"We should hold off until the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the EPA have the staff in place to control these wells properly," he said.
Resident Martha Morgan said her concern was over the chemicals used in the fracking process.
"There is no requirement for these companies to disclose what chemicals they are putting in these wells," she said. "The State of New York banned fracking. Pennsylvania banned disposing of fracking fluids."
She asked council to hold all discussions on this matter in public and not to take them behind closed doors.
"All discussions need to be in the public," Morgan said. "How you vote will affect how we vote."
Resident Beth Queen asked council to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the whole issue further. She volunteered to be a part of a committee.
Councilman Atty Robert Limmer spoke on the 1934 lease for Poland Woods. He said Grace Butler had incorporated into the lease certain stipulations that if broken, would mean giving the land back to the Butler family.
"Conditions of the lease include use of the woods only for a park and keeping it in a natural state," Limmer said. "I propose the leasing of the woods would violate these two items."
The only speaker who seemed to favor fracking was township resident Albin Dearing. He said there are two things to consider.
"The drilling is done one mile underground," he said. "My neighbors have all signed leases and the drilling could produce income for decades to come. Energy equals prosperity. The lack of it equals poverty."
Mayor Tim Sicafuse closed the public segment of the meeting by stating that council did not seek out Chesapeake or a lease. The company had approached the Village.
He said, "We would never ever let them drill in the woods."
Sicafuse also insured residents that any discussion with gas and oil companies would be done in public and not in executive session.
"Everything we do will be out in the open," he said. "We didn't seek this, they approached us."
Following a brief break, council continued the meeting and heard from representatives of Streetscapes, who requested the right to hold a farmer's market at the Poland Library this summer. The plan is to begin it on July 6 and run it through October. The market would feature locally grown produce and possibly local crafts. The organization is looking at Fridays so as not to interfere with Yellow Creek Theater.
Village solicitor Anthony D'Apolito told the representatives that a permit would be required and would cost $25 for the application fee and $50 for each time it was held. He said it could be waved for a non-profit. Mayor Sicafuse said council will consider it and let them know.
In other business:
Mayor Sicafuse said he received a letter from Armstrong that stated there would be a price increase on monthly cable service in March. He said the basic package would raise to $59.45 a month with $6 additional for HD. He said telephone and computer services would remain the same and the increase would only affect the television portion.