Monica Fortuna said she doesn’t want the injection wells that are being built to dispose of drilling waste water on Route 7 north of Wyngate Manor Mobile Home Park in Brookfield.
“It’s safe to say no one wants this operation in this community,” Fortuna said.
However, Fortuna is put off by the opposition to a proposal that Highland Field Services, the company building the wells, donate $2,500 to Brookfield Local School District to support science, technology, engineering and math programming.
“Let’s make the best of it,” said the mother of a sixth-grader.
Fortuna “originally reached out to (Highland) and asked them for support in purchasing new seventh- and eighth-grade basketball uniforms and they responded they really don’t do things for athletics or sports teams but that they had, in the past, supported STEM programming,” school Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor said.
“Luckily for us, we’re looking hard at trying to add STEM programming, especially at the middle school, next year,” Taylor said. “She made a tactical switch and encouraged them to get in touch with us and us to get in touch with them to talk about how much they could help us with that new (STEM) initiative.”
Taylor told the board about the offer Wednesday, and said she did not accept the money right out because of the opposition to the wells. She said she wanted the opinion of the school board before deciding what to do.
Board member Ron Brennan said he is flat out against taking the money.
“The stuff that’s pumped into there, the pressure that we put on there, and the fact that the only people making money on it are the people putting the waste in there and the state of Ohio,” Brennan said. “Communities have no say what goes into that. Twenty-five hundred dollars is not enough to sell our soul.”
Brennan said he fears the wells increase the likelihood of earthquakes, environmental and drinking water contamination, and cancer.
“If they were saying they were going to give up $1 million a year, that’s a different story,” he said.
Board members Tim Filipovich and Kelly Carrier described themselves as neutral on the request, while George Economides asked if Taylor had talked to the trustees.
“I think the key is to let everybody know what our intentions are, how sensitive we are to their needs, and maybe you’ll get a clearer answer as we move forward,” Economides said. “I don’t want to create an internal war.”
“I don’t, either,” Brennan said. “But, I would say the same thing. There are probably drug dealers in our community, but, if they came in and offered us money, I wouldn’t want to take that either. It would never sit right with me.”
All three trustees have expressed opposition to the wells and supported the efforts of Brookfield Citizens Against Injection Wells, but Trustees Ron Haun and Dan Suttles – none of the trustees attended the school board meeting – said they were not sure why they should be asked to weigh in on the decision.
“It’s not like they’re making a donation to us,” Haun said.
In giving his personal opinion, Haun said it is important to have a good STEM program.
“Anything you can do to promote higher education is a good thing,” he said.
Trustee Gary Lees said the key to having a progressive community is an “education first” mentality.
Suttles said he would not take the money if it was offered to the township, but reiterated there is a division between the school board and the trustees.
“I care about our students,” he said. “I want good schools. These aren’t our decisions to make.”
Fortuna said she doesn’t understand the “emotional” responses of Brennan and Suttles about whether to take the money. She said the opposition did not stop the wells, which are legal and regulated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It’s logical to try to build a positive relationship with Highland, she said.
“My point is, we’re not going to stop them,” Fortuna said. “We’re not going to stop them from coming into our community. They’re in our community. Let’s take advantage of it.”
Fortuna asked Taylor to press the company for more money.
“I asked for $14,300,” Fortuna said. “I don’t think that $2,500 is enough. There should be a push back on that.”
Taylor said the Highland representative she talked to described Highland as a “young company” and a “small company” of 10 employees.
“Seneca (Resources), which is the parent company, has a much greater footprint, but Highland only is a small company, hence, the small amount of money that she was able to offer us,” Taylor said.
However, the representative said “they would work with us annually, so they would be a continual source of some sort of monetary support for our STEM programming,” Taylor said.
“I’m curious to know what she means by ‘continual involvement,’” Fortuna said. “I would like to see her implement the entire STEM program. They’re a billion-dollar company. They make sizable contributions to politicians all day long. They have” political action committees.