EL holds dialogue with pipeline reps

BY PAT FARNELLI

The Elk Lake School District and Susquehanna Career and Technology Center boards reorganized Thursday, electing a new president, Anne Teel, and vice president, Matt Curley.

Former school board president Chuck Place requested that he not be appointed as president this year.

The votes to approve Teel and Curley were unanimous.

Board secretary Kimberly Hollister read a letter regarding the district’s recent decision to retain a law firm for advice concerning the Williams pipeline company, with which the school district signed a contract six months ago for a single 10-inch pipeline.

At the November meeting, it was announced that the district would be retaining legal counsel. The letter pointed out that the law firm retained by the district due to safety concerns with proposed natural gas pipelines on the school campus, Abrahamsen, Conaboy and Abrahamsen, had previously been hired by one of the school board members to handle pipeline issues on that person’s property.

The letter writer regarded this as a potential conflict of interest.

Teel announced that she was that board member, and said that she would be abstaining from all votes involving Williams pipeline.

Teel noted that the letter accused the board and attorneys of refusing to meet with the Williams officials.

“That is incorrect–there have been a number of meetings,” Teel said.

“Since that easement was signed, board members did some research into the agreement, and found out that Williams could put multiple lines in the easement, which could be much bigger than ten inches, up to 24 inches,” Teel said.

Superintendent William Bush said that the district was notified of an proposed right of way for a pipeline, extending from a pad on school property and following the school district property line and crossing part of the school campus. The school board agreed to a ten inch pipeline.

According to Michael Dickinson, Manager of Operations and Technical Services for  Williams, this proposed pipeline will  extend from the Waldenberger well pad to Cokely Road, following Cokely Road past where it crosses State Route 3001 near the school.

The proposed pipeline then angles toward a lengthy property line which it would follow to its end. At that point, the pipeline then follows another property line toward State Route 3009, which fronts the Elk Lake School buildings, crossing that road and following the edge of the school property.

An aerial map was provided for public view at the meeting, which seemed to alleviate some of the anxiety being expressed by those attending.

Craig Sprout, whose children attend the school, said that the line is on the boundary line “near the two built houses, and is the farthest away from the school that it can possibly be.”

Jeanie Jayne questioned the board on whether the size of the pipeline was specified on any paperwork. She was told it did not appear to have been.

“The train left the station when you signed the gas lease,” she said. “Safety is off the board, you took that away.”

Curley defended the board, saying that while they may not have fully understood the industry from the beginning.

“We are sitting here trying to get it right. We may have made mistakes in the past, but that doesn’t mean I have to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the future,” he said.

Jayne asked when Superintendent William Bush signed the pipeline agreement, and when he and the board found out that he should not have.

Attorney Ned Abrahamsen replied, “It was never approved by vote by the board at a public meeting, so it is not legally binding, by the school board code.”