Township addressing natural gas leaks; public comment procedures

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Blacklick Estate residents are concerned about the smell of natural gas, especially in light of an Everson Drive explosion in November that remains under investigation.

Area residents were told during a March 13 Madison Township trustee meeting that the gas company has a multi-step leak response program.

According to Madison Township Administrator Susan Brobst, an immediate hazard is a leak in or around a building affecting human beings. A 2-plus leak is non-hazardous and must be fixed within 15 days. An identified level 2 leak must be replaced within 24 months and is monitored every six months and a category 3 leak is non-hazardous, monitored every year, but could be upgraded to a higher level is necessary.

“Everything is driven by people calling 911 or 1-800-344-4077,” said Brobst, who said while complaints come from all over Blacklick Estates, many of the calls come from the streets Harbor, Clearwater, Sedalia, Shoreline, Newport and Tylor.

“Many of the gas lines in Blacklick Estates are original to the development and are primarily coated steel and plastic,” said Brobst. “The gas company said they are monitored and checked for decay.”

Brobst said the township receives notification from the county engineer whenever Columbia Gas is working or going to be working in an area.

In the event of a gas emergency, the company recommends customers go outside and call 911 from a safe place, then call Columbia Gas at 1-800-344-4077 and select option one from the automated menu for carbon monoxide or gas emergencies.

With the gardening season on the horizon, Brobst also recommends people call 811 before doing any kind of digging so Columbia Gas can come out and identify the location of service lines.

Public comment at meetings
Madison Township residents have one more opportunity to provide input on a new public comment policy before trustees are expected to take action.

Individuals who want to address the board still have opportunity to do so—although the Ohio Revised Code does not require the courtesy—as long as they fill out and turn in a request form before the meeting begins, but the trustees also want to bring more order to meetings.

If a speaker wants to address the board on a non-agenda item, their topic of concern must be provided on the form, otherwise they will not be permitted to speak. No forms will be accepted after the meeting begins, except under rare circumstances.

Before closing the regular agenda and/or moving into executive session, the board will permit speakers to address non-agenda items on any issue affecting board administrative and legislative responsibilities.

In addition, any public input inspired by board business may be considered by the board prior to executive session or the close of the meeting. Anyone wishing to address the board must complete a speaker slip and turn it in to the administrator before the last resolution is read.

Unlike past meetings, when verbal free-for-alls sometimes erupted, attendees will not be permitted to speak from the audience. Each speaker is only allowed five minutes to speak and only one opportunity to speak on a particular subject.

If a speaker breaks decorum by making obscene, slanderous, threatening, or abusive remarks, they will be warned.

If they continue to engage in negative behavior, they could have their speaking privileges revoked and ordered to leave the podium.

If they fail to heed warnings and do not remove themselves from the podium, the chairman can order any township police officer to remove the speaker from the meeting and, if necessary, be confined until the meeting closes.

According to the policy, if a speaker has a history of violating rules of decorum or engages in behavior that disrupts the meeting, or prevents, obstructs or interferes with more than one meeting, the speaker, at the discretion of the board, shall be barred for three calendar months from further attendance before the board.

“This is not yet approved,” said Brobst. “We’re still taking comments. It could be adopted at the April 10 meeting.”

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