If there is to be a natural gas well near Kimpton Middle School, it will be without the cooperation of the Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools.
The Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution at its Jan. 30 special meeting prohibiting the negotiation of a lease agreement by the district with Ravenna-based Beck Energy.
Beck Energy Vice President David Beck had told the board Dec. 5 that the well would actually be on the northern part of 27 acres, just to the east of the school, that is owned by the Armbrust family. But under state regulations, said Beck, there needs to be at least 40 acres, with permission required from any adjacent property owners less than 500 feet from the well, which is where the district comes in.
District Treasurer Dave Osborne told the Stow Sentry Jan. 31 that the district had been told the lease agreement could have brought the district as much as $500 per month. However, neither Osborne nor District Director of Operations Mark Fritz could explain why the Board decided against a lease agreement with Beck Energy.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of talking about it” at the Jan. 30 meeting, said Fritz.
Osborne said he did not have an opinion either way on the matter and no one with the administration, including Fritz, offered the Board an opinion.
“Really, we just said, “this is a Board decision to make,’” said Osborne.
When asked if he had an opinion, Fritz said it was the Board’s decision and, “My viewpoint is irrelevant.”
Board member Lisa Johnson-Bowers referred a request for comment to Board President Gerry Bettio. Bettio and Board members David Licate, Pat Matthews and Kelly Toppin did not return phone calls seeking comment before press time.
A phone call made to the Armbrust home was also not returned.
David Beck told the Stow Sentry Jan. 31 that he would explore whether an alternative to including the middle school property could be found.
“We’ll just have to go back to the drawing board, I guess, and see if there’s any room there anywhere else for a well. That definitely limits where and how we can drill the well,” said Beck.
According to Summit County property records, there is an approximately 20-acre residential and agricultural parcel to the east of the Armbrust property and a portion of the Kent State University Airport to the north of the Armbrusts.
“I’ll have to talk to the landowner and see if there’s a Plan B,” said Beck, referring to Armbrust. “We’ll just have to see if there’s acreage and spacing available to put it somewhere else. If not, we’ll kind of have to walk away from it. We’ll have to see.”
Beck told the Board Dec. 5 that he was seeking a non-drilling lease of about 13 acres with the district, with no easement, right-of-way or entrance onto the school property. The well cannot be within 200 feet of an occupied building, such as the school and would not be visible from the school, he said.
$20,000 in savings expected
Osborne said the Board also approved a change to the way it will pay to replace the high school’s 30-year-old “chiller,” a type of cooling system, with a new $715,000 system.
On Jan. 10, the Board approved paying $425,000 from the district’s permanent improvement fund and borrowing $290,000 from Huntington Bank for the balance. The PI fund is being funded with a 1.99-mill continuing levy that voters approved this past November.
The levy will provide about $1.8 million annually, but district officials have said that there are a number of needs for that money at district buildings and Osborne said the Board did not want to tax the PI fund too much, too quickly with the chiller replacement.
But, he said the Board also asked him if there was a way to save on the $20,000 in interest the loan would cost and it accepted his recommendation that the district pay the $290,000 from its general fund, which would then be reimbursed from the PI fund at $58,000 annually over five years.
“For the general fund, it will be a wash,” said Osborne. “This way, we in effect borrowed it from ourselves and saved $20,000.”