Newton Falls – There’s a new hot topic at the podium of the Newton Falls council meetings: hydraulic fracking.

During the second regularly scheduled council meeting of January all officials were present and, after the Pledge of Allegiance, the floor was given to Catie Karl-Moran who spoke on behalf of the Relay for Life.

The next Relay, a twenty-four hour event, will be June 10th – 11th and teams are forming now. Involving both the Newton Falls and Lordstown communities, it is open to anyone who wants to contribute their time to a great cause. “It’s a chance for everyone to get together to raise money for a cure and to bring the community together to make a difference (in the lives of cancer patients),” Ms. Moran said. Anyone is welcome whether they are longtime supporters or this will be their first time being involved with the fundraiser.  Ms. Moran also issued a challenge to the community of Newton Falls and the community of Lordstown: whichever town gets the most new teams signed up will have a trophy to display for the whole year after the event. She mentioned upcoming daffodil sales, proceeds of which will go toward the individual team total, and encouraged attendance at the Luminaria Ceremony, a time which promotes lighting of candles in memory or in honor of a loved one. The next Relay for Life general public meeting is February 16th at the community center, 6:30pm. There are many different ways to help, even if you are not a runner. EVERYONE is welcome, so come find out how you can join in the cause. One more note: the local American Red Cross has announced there is an emergency blood shortage and has put out the immediate call for help to anyone who is able to donate.

When comments were opened to the public, a representative from the Newton Falls Youth Baseball and Softball League addressed the need for a new concession stand in the community center park. Look for plans and fundraisers for this addition soon.

Mayor Waddell relayed that Dominion East Ohio reminds everyone to please call the utility company before you dig, even if just digging in your own yard, to be sure you will not be hitting any lines in the ground. He also mentioned that he had the opportunity to attend the congressional swearing-in ceremony in Washington, D.C. on the invitation from a local congressman, and was honored to be able to do so.

Councilman Monteville reported on a recent Investment Board meeting involving the fluctuating interest rates of bonds. Councilman Zamecnik attended the Planning & Zoning meeting and reported that they have made minor adjustments to the wind turbine regulations which are now under review. Also in progress are guidelines for contractor registrations. He mentioned that he had attended the recent presentation at the Community Center hosted by the Township Trustees involving hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” Sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of Portage County, these presentations are being held at various community buildings throughout the neighboring counties. Open to the public, their purpose is to get the word out about what could be a beneficial, albeit dangerous, trend in our communities that could affect the quality and safety of drinking water by inserting unknown chemicals into the ground.

Mr. Haney reminded   everyone about the plethora of senior activities available in the area, a great way to beat the cold and socialize. Low to no cost activities are being offered right in our very own community center, so be sure and read the newspaper or check the city website calendar for upcoming events. In response to some concerns about the fracking issue, Mr. Haney also mentioned that Newton Falls “does not get our drinking water from underground – we utilize surface water” so the possible contamination of fracking is not as imminent for our community.

Councilwoman Johnson requested of Mr. Haney that a sign be posted in the meetingplace instructing people to sit down when they attend council meetings, not stand along the walls, citing the recent tragic Arizona incident as something that could easily be repeated if people are permitted to stand out of the immediate sightline of the council members.

By way of good news, a proclamation honoring the Four Chaplains was read into record, designating Sunday, February 6th as Four Chaplains Day. Council encourages citizens to remember those men and their actions of service, specifically those on February 3rd, 1943 when the USAT Dorchester sank into the sea.

Closing public comments revisited issues such as the poor quality of the sound system which continues to cause difficulty especially for people trying to see and hear the proceedings on television at home; concerns about the fracking, which involves drilling down to 8,000 feet and dropping chemicals into the hole to blast the ground; and the imminent recall election of Ward 4 representative James Luonuansuu currently scheduled for Tuesday, February 8th. In response to Councilwoman Johnson’s comment about not wanting people behind her during meetings, a recommendation was made that if council is concerned about such a situation, the set up could easily be moved to the other end of the room so that council can see everything going on. At the present time, the council table is situated so that the officials have their backs to the entranceway and are unable to see people coming and going. If the table were moved by the stage, it would allow them a clear view to the entire space and also to the only currently used doorway.

In closing council comments, Councilman Monteville reminded the community about the Pack-a-Backpack program which is currently rotating fifty backpacks every weekend to local children in need. Mayor Waddell reiterated comments made about the backpack program and added that the charitable drawing from this meeting goes to the NFHS drama club.

The next meeting will be February 7th at 6pm.