WILLIAMS COUNTY ALLIANCE … Representing the Williams County Alliance at the September 26, 2022 Commissioners meeting, about their concerns with Aqua Bounty, and requesting that the commissioners do as Defiance County Commissioners have done, were (speaker) Lou Pendleton next to Bart Westfall, Sherry Fleming, Rosemary Hug and Stewart Rosendaul. (PHOTO BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)
By: Rebecca Miller
Monday morning, September 26, 2022 was a busy start for the week for the Williams County Commissioners.
They began their day at 8:30 with an executive session regards to discipline. Present for the meeting with all three commissioners Terry Rummel, Lew Hilkert and (outgoing) Brian Davis, were (incoming commissioner) Bart Westfall, Bryan Chief of Police Gregory Ruskey, Sheriff’s Detective Matthew Zook, Bryan Mayor Carrie Schlade, and Williams County Sheriff Tom Kochert. The executive session ended at 9:19 with no action and they went into general session.
The commissioners gave approval for:
- Resolution 251 Supplemental Appropriations
- also signed: travel request on behalf of Michael Levy to attend the Motorola Midwest User Group meeting
- minutes of previous meeting and payment of bills
With no recess between, they went directly into a scheduled meeting with Lou Pendleton from the group Williams County Alliance.
Also with her were Sherry Fleming, Rosemary Hug and Stewart Rosendaul. Pendleton said they were there to ask if the Williams County Commissioners would follow what the Defiance County Commissioners did on September 8, 2022, in sending a letter to the Ohio EPA regarding the Aqua Bounty permits.
“We were wondering if you would take a position similar to the Defiance County Commissioners and oppose any proposals to drill, pump or sell large quantities of water from the aquifer, including the Aqua Bounty project until the USGS study is completed?” she asked.
Commissioner Rummel said that he would “start and say no. That is not my position. ”
“I have made my position very clear on this board, and publicly, that I support the Aqua Bounty and I believe that the rules and regulations that we have in place are sufficient.”
Commissioner Hilkert said, “In regards to Aqua Bounty, I have always stood at the point where if it is legal, it is fine.”
“However, the jury is still out on a couple of the applications and for whatever reason, this thing continues to go forward.”
“We have no jurisdiction over this project and therefore my opinion is if it is legal, I am not going to stand in the way.”
Commissioner Davis answered, “Well, if you take a look at the board’s actions, we denied the use of the public right of way because the entity was not a public utility.”
“And as Lew said, what is legal and what is prudent is one thing. Writing letters to the EPA and things like that, quite frankly, don’t do anything. It carries no weight. I am not altogether certain they even look at them.”
“They are going through a process and I am not interested. Obviously with these two not interested in doing a resolution, I wouldn’t even get a second if I wanted to, so I think this board needs to do what is legal and it is their realm of authority.”
Pendleton then reminded the commissioners of a resolution passed in 2018 by Defiance and Williams County Commissioners and read it aloud.”
Pendleton said that the way the 2018 resolution was written, with the statement, “We remind you of the old saying, just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. We do not support this venture.”
She told the commissioners that it feels to her that they are contradicting now what they said in 2018. Davis pointed out that the project in 2018 was about “transporting water to Toledo” and that Aqua Bounty will be using it in the county.
He continued, “they have legal rights to the ownership of their property and the simple fact of the matter is, we have gone through this process before in a different variation, and whether we are for or against really doesn’t matter.”
Rosendaul stated, “Yes it does,” and Fleming added, “We’ve been told as citizen groups that if you can get elected officials … it does make a difference when commissioners take a stand.” In between those beginning and ending thoughts.
Fleming said, “If you look back when Fremont Farms was proposing to come into Williams County, the number of resolutions that were passed, and they were townships and the hospital, numerous people that took stands and legally the resolutions made a difference.”
“So, it makes a difference to Aqua Bounty to know whether they are coming into a community that really wants them or they are coming into a community that really doesn’t want something like this.”
“I guess even though I realize what you are saying, that it is legal, unfortunately the people in this community and over the aquifer didn’t have an opportunity to participate in the regulatory process that occurred.”
“That was all done down at the state and we were left out of that. So many of the concerns that we have aren’t addressed and that’s why people make comments that, they don’t matter.”
“I guess I don’t quite understand why the states like Ohio has put in half a million dollars and Michigan half a million dollars.”
“Why are we doing this USGS Study if we are going to say ‘As long as ODNR and EPA say it’s okay then it’s okay?’”
Fleming continued, “That doesn’t make sense to me. On one hand we are saying let’s do this study because we need to understand more about and it’s a complex aquifer.”
“It’s not this big pot of water underneath the nine counties. It is very complex and water is so essential.”
“I mean we can’t survive without it and I guess if it was oil or something like that it would be totally different, but we are talking water.”
“I don’t think I have ever seen, at least in my period of living in this county, something that has touched people the way water being sold as a commodity has touched people and I just don’t feel that’s reflected in the laws that are in existence right now.”
“I realize you don’t have law making authority, but it does make a difference when commissioners take a stand.”
At this point in the discussion, Commissioner Hilkert asked Pendleton to read the last few sentences from the 2018 resolution again, which she did, “We are reminded of an old saying just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.”
“We do not support, nor endorse, this venture.” “I think the same things holds true with this venture,” Hilkert said. Pendelton said, “Yes, what?” He asked her to read it again, saying that it speaks for itself.
After reading it a third time, adding the sentence from the resolution, “therefore, be it resolved by the Williams County Board of Commissioners that the board does not support the proposed drilling of the aquifer,” Pendleton stated,
“That’s why we are here today, asking if you would take a similar stand.” She also commented that “the people in Williams County do not support this project.
The Defiance County Commissioners are representing that viewpoint and I think that the Williams County Commissioners should represent their people as well.”
Commissioner Rummel calmly stated, “We have heard your request. I stand where I stand on this and we can beat this back and forth a hundred times and a hundred ways.”
“What you say is not going to change my mind or my position on where I stand and I think we have talked about this.”
“I appreciate your calmness as we go through this and we talk about it, but at this point it is where we’re at.”
Upon asking if the other commissioners had anything else to say, and receiving a negative on that, he adjourned the meeting.
Fleming asked an “unrelated question”, saying, “At the recent EPA meeting for the discharge permits, there were numerous comments where people were concerned about the flooding and the Ohio EPA mentioned that there was something that would be done at the county level. Are you aware of anything on that?”
Hilkert stated that nothing has been presented to them that he is aware of and Davis said that maybe it was mentioned to the county engineer.
Fleming thanked them and the commissioners thanked them for coming as they were leaving the room.
There was a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. for the commissioners at Hillside Country Living for a roof review.
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org