ST. MARYS – At Monday's meeting of the St. Marys Area School District's Board of Directors, area residents questioned board members about information contained in a Daily Press article covering last Thursday's work session meeting of the board. At that meeting, SMASD Superintendent Anne Kearney said she had been approached by ELEXCO Land Services Company, with the company requesting permission to conduct seismic testing on the district's property at the Bennetts Valley Elementary School.
"The article talked about two parcels of land, a three-acre and an 11-acre parcel. I'd like to know where those parcels are in relationship to the school," said Mike Brock, a St. Marys resident.
In an attempt to locate the parcels, the board produced a map of the school property, but were unable to do so as parcel numbers were not represented on the map at hand. It was determined that parcel identification numbers could be found in the tax book, a copy of which could be reviewed publicly at the Elk County Courthouse.
"We don't know if they [the parcels] are close to the school or not close to the school?" Brock asked, adding that it is of vital importance that the board determine the exact location of the parcels in question.
"Are they right next to the school, are they five miles from the school, are they in a quasi-residential neighborhood?" he asked.
When asked what his concerns were regarding the proximity of the parcels in relation to the Bennetts Valley school building, Brock said that he would have "some serious concerns if it was next to the school." When asked by board members to elaborate, Brock cited a "massive well blow-out in June 2010 in Clearfield County."
Jacqueline Severance of St. Marys also addressed the board, saying she was alarmed by the prospect of oil and gas companies establishing a presence on or near school district property and children.
"Mrs. Kearney said that you want to have seismic testing done and that there probably isn't going to be any drilling on the property, but we have to worry about the adjacent properties and the fracking going horizontally and the effects of combustion problems and other problems other areas have faced with Marcellus drilling," Severance said. "It's my personal concern for the welfare for the kids in this area."
Kearney said the request of the school board by ELEXCO Land Services Company was "only a request to do seismic testing on this acreage," nothing more.
"It's seismic testing for a well, a potential well, why else would you have them testing?" Brock asked.
Kearney said that seismic testing is not necessarily an invasive process and that it should not be equated with drilling and the implementation of gas wells.
"This [seismic testing] does not mean a well would be drilled on our property. We certainly would never allow that so close to a school," she said.
When asked by Brock if the board would be putting the proposal to a vote that evening, Joe Goetz, SMASD board president, said the item was not officially listed on the agenda for Monday's meeting.
"Note was made that the application or request was made by this group ELEXCO Land Services, that they were doing seismic testing in that vicinity and made the request to come onto the school properties. We have not researched at this point which parcels they really are and it's not on the agenda tonight," Goetz said.
Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.