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County 5 Refuse to Take a Stand Against Fracking: County Manager Speaks – The 5 Are Reviewing

Posted January 16, 2015  07:59 am | 1 comment

Folks came from across Florida to stand against fracking in Florida. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson (at the lectern), of Our Santa Fe, asked the County 5 to support a resolution against it.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Fracking brought the Columbia County 5 guests from as far south as Sarasota, to a property owner in Keystone Heights in NE Florida, for the evening's County Commission meeting. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, a Columbia County resident and President of Our Santa Fe River, came to Columbia County to ask the County 5 to pass a resolution or ordinance in favor of banning fracking. After 25 minutes of public comments and 30 minutes of presentation by Ms. Malwitz-Jipson, The 5 passed a motion for the County Attorney to contact Alachua County to see what it was doing.

Before Ms. Malowitz-Jipson made her presentation, speaker after speaker came to the microphone and spoke against Florida fracking.

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson explains a slide in her power point.

Some mentioned the harm to the environment in other states; some spoke about legislation in the Florida legislature that will ban fracking; some spoke about the importance of clean water. None of the speakers was in favor of fracking.

For 30 minutes, Ms. Malwitz-Jipson gave a slide presentation and answered a few questions from Commissioner Ronald Williams.

Columbia County's long time County Manager (CM), Dale Williams, told Ms. Malwitz-Jipson, "I had a lot of conversation with Tallahassee today about the Senate and House Bill."

County Manager Williams mentioned that there was concern that the legislation "was written so broadly that they think it would impede even a simple residential water well." He mentioned there were problems with the definition of waste water regarding the difference of wastewater from fracking and regular wastewater.

CM Williams continued, "I truly believe that every Commissioner sitting here has an issue with fracking... I do think in general you have no issues here with anybody supporting fracking."

Polling the Board? "A Sticky Wicket"

None of The 5 agreed or disagreed.

One resident after the meeting thought she saw a nod and another thought they just sat there.

It was not clear what the County Manager discussed with each Commissioner before the meeting. It was not clear if the County Manager polled the board any time before the meeting.

John Favere from Sarasota, told The 5, "It's going to be a tough battle."

County Manager Williams said, "I know we have to express it in a public forum and that's a little bit more of a sticky wicket than even I thought it was and I didn't realize that until today."

Crystal clear, once again at The 5, was that the commissioners had nothing to say, other than Commissioner Williams, who over a 35 year career, has never been bashful and a brief question by Chairman DePratter about wastewater.

County Manager Williams explained that Alachua County was working on the same issues regarding fracking, pro and con, and recommended that the County Attorney, Joel Foreman, contact Alachua County.

Ms. Malwitz-Jipson asked The 5 to do something.

Chairman DePratter responded, "I think what you got out of us – we're gonna get Joel to get [to] Alachua County to see what they start drafting up and bring us something back to consider."

Ms. Malwitz-Jipson asked, "Can that be made as a motion?"

Commissioner Williams replied, "To satisfy you, so moved."

"A tough battle"

As the meeting concluded, John Favere came to the microphone.

He told The 5 he came from Pennsylvania and now lives in Sarasota. "This is the God's honest truth: things are very bad in Pennsylvania. Families are losing their homes... this is a problem that is not going away. It's going to continue.  It's spreading like cancer."

Mr. Favere continued, "This is a political situation. These people have a lot of money. They have bank accounts that don't go dry. I hope you can fight this, but it's going to be a tough battle."


Columbia County's County 5 is reviewing.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On January 19, John Favere from Sarasota wrote:

I came to Columbia County for one reason: to help the people understand fracking. People might think fracking is a good thing, but other people might not. We are all in the same boat no matter if you're a Floridian or not.

If I was a commissioner and needed to make a decision on an issue that could hurt our drinking water I would not let any city or county attorney make my mind up? I don't understand. The Commissioners were elected by the people, but the attorneys tell them what to say. Who's running the county, the elected officials or the attorneys? Remember, to live you need water.  

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