Amidst concerns for public safety, the South Strabane Township board of supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to table an initiative by McDonald Land Services to perform seismic testing on township property, particularly Community and Billy Bell parks.
The vote, which is the second in as many months, followed a presentation by Keith Copeland, a land representative for McDonald, who led supervisors and attendees of the meeting through the six-step process. The findings would be used to determine if gas well hydraulic fracturing would be favorable on the properties.
Copeland explained that McDonald was hired by Seitel Inc., with 80 percent of gas companies, including Marcellus shale bigwig Range Resources, committed to purchasing the data. As an incentive, Seitel is offering $5 per acre for the testing, a move that did not seem to sway officials.
“My primary concern is that both parks are heavily used by the public,” said Chairman Thomas Moore. “The walking trails are used year-round. I’m not so sure how we would handle that.”
In the three-dimensional seismic method proposed, three-inch diameter holes would be drilled 30 feet into the ground with small explosive charges attached. The holes would then be filled with gravel.
After learning that the proposed sites were public parks, Copeland said he would suggest using a less-invasive approach, in which no holes would be dug and wireless probes would sit on the ground for short periods of time.
Moore expressed discomfort with both methods.
“I could see residents and children tripping over the boxes,” he said.
After township solicitor Thomas Lonich brought up ownership of mineral rights on township properties, the board voted to postpone action.
Also at the meeting, the supervisors decided in a 3-2 vote to forego submitting a proposal to East Washington to provide police presence in the borough.
The votes comes on the heels of controversy surrounding the matter after residents flocked to Tuesday night’s East Washington meeting amid concerns that the police force there will be eliminated. Supervisor Edward Mazur voiced his concerns about not only the cost of providing police presence, but the amount of manpower needed to meet the request.
“They want 24/7 coverage,” he said. “We would need to hire four additional officers and a cruiser.”
After Supervisor Robert Koman spoke of the “good relationship” between East Washington and South Strabane, the board voted not to act on the proposal, with Moore, Mazur and John Keisling voting against a proposal and Daniel Piatt and Koman voting in favor.