Silver Lake -- Nearly every resident who spoke at the Village Council meeting on Feb. 21 made it clear that they do not want a Ravenna-based company to drill a natural gas well on village property.
Council hosted a Committee of the Whole meeting to hear feedback from residents on a proposal by David Beck of Beck Energy to drill a well on a nearly 30-acre parcel south of Village Hall in an area where village officials keep equipment. Following the drilling itself, fracking would occur to extract the natural gas from the well, according to Beck.
Beck previously told Council he would drill less than 4,000 feet below the surface. If the drilling is successful, Beck said he would offer an "allotment" of free natural gas that can be used by Village Hall. Beck noted he would be willing to pay the village a $15,000 royalty prior to drilling. If the well fails to generate natural gas, the village would still have $15,000. If the well is successful, Beck said he hopes it would generate $2,000 to $3,000 per month for the village.
Beck on Feb. 21 said his company operates about 300 wells in the state.
"Economically it's a good thing, it's a safe thing," said Beck. "I would just like the opportunity to work with the village."
After hearing Beck provide a brief summary of his plan, 12 of the 13 residents who addressed Council on Feb. 21 said they were opposed to the proposal. More than 40 residents attended the meeting.
Following the comments, Council President Jerry Jones (At Large) said Council "felt it had an obligation to listen" to residents' thoughts.
"I don't know how the rest of them (Council) feel," said Jones. "I think we had a mixed feeling on Council. I think I heard you and it won't get my vote, but there's probably some others here that (it) won't get their vote either."
Mary Lou Van Sise, whose home is adjacent to the land where the drilling is proposed to occur, voiced her opposition to the idea. Beck is proposing to drill on land that the village purchased from Dr. John W. Van Sise in 1964. She noted the proposed drilling site is near the Cuyahoga River, Silver Lake (the body of water), water fields and Water Works Park.
"In 2005 and 2006, the residents jammed this place and said 'no' (to a drilling proposal from Beck Energy)," said Van Sise. "Here we go again, because (of) money, money, money. Environment (is something) we have to think about here. I live right next door that's a nature reserve back there."
Van Sise later noted that chemicals were once dumped on the land that is being considered for drilling.
Beck said the drilling was safe and added he did not have any problems at the Sonoco #1 well in Munroe Falls off State Route 91 that was finished six months ago.
Van Sise noted "some of these problems don't show up for five, six, seven years and people need to understand by that time, the mayor and Council that OK'd all this have moved on. They're out of it when these problems come up five, six years later, families are sick. (There are) different horrible problems with their water. "
Beck said there are about 60,000 oil and gas wells in Ohio, with six being in Lake Rockwell, the source of water for the city of Akron.
"The technology to build a well has only improved and continues to improve," added Beck.
However, residents raised concerns about water safety and felt that the potential revenue was not worth the possible health and environmental risks.
Resident Marcia Schulz, who said she is a public health nurse and a nurse practitioner, stated, "You cannot even tell me that fracking does not pose a risk and a serious one at that."
"I do not want it," said resident Bonnie Walter. "There's too many health concerns, too many potential problems with it." Walter also expressed concern about the contract the village would sign with Beck for a drilling deal.
"Once we sign that, we don't have as much power as you think," said Walter.
Resident Jim Newhouse said officials at Twin Falls United Methodist Church are "very happy" with the well installed by Beck Energy.
"I'm in favor of the well," said Newhouse. "And I live very close to where it will be drilled, too."
Resident Polly Bloom said she was "dumbfounded" that village leaders would consider the drilling proposal.
"If it's a revenue source that you're concerned about, there's a lot of other options available," said Bloom. "There's no guarantee on revenue so you're getting into a contract that's very risky for a whole lot of reasons."
"I don't believe that our water is safe," said Bloom, who noted the drilling would occur close to the Cuyahoga River, Silver Lake and Crystal Lake. " I think you're just making a very callous decision if you did allow this to go forward. We elect you to protect us and that doesn't seem like a wise use of your decision."
Resident Christine Middleton said she was "highly concerned about the water table, how close it is to the Cuyahoga River and also the environmental effects several years down the road."
Resident Jeff Abood said that drilling through the water table will "compromise the water table," and asked who would pay if there was a leak into either the Cuyahoga River or Silver Lake.
"It would be very expensive to clean up Silver Lake," said Abood.
"For the amount of money that this is possibly going to generate I don't feel it's worth the risk," added resident Kathy Schlosser.
Council does not have any legislation before it on the drilling issue and members did not schedule another discussion on the proposal.