“We are doing it as fast as we can, just have a little faith in us.”
That was the response of Stokes County Board of Commissioners Chair Ronda Jones after listening to close to an hour of public comments from concerned citizens demanding the board enact ordinances that could limit the impact of of potential fracking operations in the county
Close to 100 people showed up for the regular commissioners meeting Monday forcing it to be moved, for the second time in as many months, to the the county courtroom to meet fire codes.
“We hear everyone of you,” said Jones. “We are doing what we can behind the scenes and doing our due diligence. The wheels of government do not grind as quickly as any of us would like. This all Republican board was the first in the state to do a resolution against fracking and we are the same board. We live here too and have the same concerns. We get it, we hear you.”
A total of 15 speakers expressed their concern over the fact that the board had taken no action in the month since over a 150 people showed up to demand ordinances and a possible moratorium on fracking.
“In the 26 years I have lived in this county I have never seen anything more frightening than the possibility of fracking coming here,” said Linda Mason. “Just last week Chatham County did do something — they passed a two year moratorium on fracking. What, or who, is holding you up from acting on this issue now?”
Rita Cruise commented on concerns the county manager had had about diminishing revenue and increase emergency service, water and legal expenses during the last budget process, warning that those costs would increase if fracking became a reality and adding that the revenue generated would not be enough to cover those increases.
After reading a poem about the beauty of the county written by her husband, Linda Dekle told the commissioners she would have never moved to the county if she had known fracking would be a possibility.
“We want progress, but not at the expense of unintended consequences,” she said.
David Harriston said the issue should not fall on political or racial lines.
“This is a Stokes County problem,” he said. “Everyone of us in here is guilty if we don’t make a better life for our kids to grow up in.”
Rick and Nancy Banasik warned that neither the national government or the state government would do anything to protect the county from potential fracking.
“We are the only ones who have our best interests in mind,” said Rick Banasick. “We must stop this catastrophe. We must do the right thing.”
Nancy Banasik reminded the board that the Southern Environmental Law Center had offered to provide free legal help in crafting both a moratorium and ordinances.
“You represent us and work for us,” she said. “You have an obligation to do the right thing.”
Linda Hicks said using the Southern Environmental Law Center would save the county money and provide a level of expertise on environmental law that the county attorney likely could not.
“You have the opportunity to collaborate with them at no cost to the county,” she said. “All Stokes lives matter. Please put a moratorium on fracking until we can get some ordinances in place. You owe us that.”
“We cannot depend on the federal government,” agreed Lillie Holdsclaw. “We cannot depend on the EPA or Congress. We cannot depend on the state who has deemed fracking as wonderful. We cannot depend on the companies. We need a moratorium now and we are the only ones we can depend on.”
Pattie Dunlap, president of the Stokes County Historical Society, related how the natural resources of the county had brought people to the area, and given them a reason to stay, for centuries.
“We were, and we are, a tough and resilient people in this county,” she said. “We love Stokes County — her clean rivers, her clean streams, her fertile soil, abundant wildlife and rich history. Hopefully it will stay that way. Protect the reason our forefathers stayed and settled here. Please don’t wait any longer.”
Dan Wolber expressed concerns over how fracking would impact water quality in the county, noting that the southeastern portion of the county had already been dealing with water issues for a long time.
“I can’t imagine another area of our county being neglected in such a manner,” he said. “What is it that makes the southeast corner such a low priority? Now is the time to make it a high priority and turn these things around.”
Ted Kitzmiller and Jim Mitchell also said their main concern was the impact fracking could have on the county’s water supplies.
“I don’t understand how anybody in there right mind could ignore this and not do something to stop it before it gets started,” said Kitzmiller. “I would make a small suggestion that maybe you consider having these meeting over here until this issue gets resolved.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.