Chris Redfern speaking with residents at the Ida Rupp Library
On Monday, Nov. 11, Chris Redfern, Representative Ohio House District 89, met with citizens for a question and answer style town meeting at 9:45 a.m. at the Ida Rupp Library in Port Clinton. During the meeting Redfern said he would be seeking funding for the Sea Grant Stone Lab in Put-In-Bay to get a new vessel and funding for Erie Ottawa Airport and the Sandusky State Theatre. Other topics were brought up by concerned citizens, council members and state and city employees.
Drilling under Lake Erie
When asked about drilling under Lake Erie for oil and gas, Redfern said that since he became elected to office in 1999 he has tried to ban drilling underneath Lake Erie. “Only 10-20% of suggestions become legislation,” said Redfern, but it doesn’t keep him from trying. In Canada, the northern part of Lake Erie, there are hundreds of wells, but the last well was built in the 1950’s.
Redfern went on to say that 16 million people get their drinking water from the Lake Erie Watershed. Salt water drilling is very different from fresh water drilling because of this factor. There is also a risk of disturbing the abundance of game fish in the western basin of the lake. Extracting the gas and oil will only provide energy for 10-15 years. Redfern asks, “What are the environmental costs? Will it be worth it?”
“I err on the side of caution because of how important Lake Erie is to all of us,” said Redfern.
A newly elected council member asked what Redfern’s stance was on the development of Waterworks Park. In his response, Redfern took us back six or seven years to when he and Randy Gardner fought for Port Clinton to get grant money to build a marina. At that time the city officials “needed to get their act together” said Redfern. The grant money was ultimately lost because the mayor at the time decided it wasn’t a good idea to develop Waterworks Park. The grant money from the government would have paid for the marina.
“Gardner and I are more than willing to go down that path again to get state funding. With that being said, there has to be follow through,” said Redfern. Vermilion and Huron both have great developments on their water front to attract people to the downtown area and for locals to have a place to enjoy events at the water front all year round. Redfern suggests that Port Clinton look into doing the same.
A Port Clinton citizen brought up the idea of turning Waterworks Park into a State Park. Redfern said, “I want to promote green space. Land on North Bass Island has been set aside for no development. We need to be stewards for future generations to enjoy Lake Erie.” In the case of Port Clinton, Redfern pointed out that it might be a matter of maintenance. The cost of maintaining the property if it were a park would be greater than the capitol the land would be bringing in.
“Do you know how many condos are in Port Clinton?” Redfern asked. “I found out yesterday. There are 700. With those condos there are taxes collected that pay for police, water etc. That’s taxes that are paid all year round if someone is living in them or not.”
Ohio Senate Bill 150
Ohio Senate Bill 150 requires that a person who applies fertilizer for the purpose of agriculture be certified to do so by the Director of Agriculture. This has been proposed because of the overwhelming algae blooms that have taken place in Lake Erie, which are thought to have a connection with the excess runoff of the fertilizer entering the lake.
Redfern said regarding Ohio Senate Bill 150, “Hunting and fishing are regulated; ODNR and the EPA can suggest changes to legislation. Education has to be done.”
“When farmers fertilize in other counties to the west it goes in the Maumee River, then to the lake. Education is necessary; farmers wouldn’t intentionally harm the land. The soil is their livelihood,” said Ottawa County Commissioner Jim Sass.
Carroll Township’s water system was shut down because of the algae blooms. “It’s messing with my business, but now it’s messing with my family,” said a Carroll Township business owner and resident.
House Bill 592
House Bill 592 is a comprehensive solid waste regulatory program. For the first time Ohio is required to minimize reliance on landfills for managing solid waste by increasing efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. An employee from the solid waste district asked Redfern how this will affect us.
Redfern said that this bill is a rewrite of a bill that was put into play 20 years ago. “I don’t want Columbus to make general decisions for solid waste; I believe that should be a local community decision. Landfills are economic tools, not just dumps.”
Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
A resident asked Redfern what his thoughts were on Obamacare and Redfern had some enlightening information on the subject. Redfern explained that each state was given the opportunity to create exchanges regarding health care. The more people in the exchange, the less it costs everyone. Ohio is foregoing an exchange and is relying on the federal system. Ohio will be getting more money for Medicaid. Medicaid will be federally funded. The more people that are covered with health insurance, the more health care people receive and the cost of care will go down.
Redfern said that it is a “huge mistake” to give away that power. He believes that health care should be state regulated so that we as a state have more control over our own health care. Redfern believes it’s cynical of the governor to take federal money for Medicaid, but have such negativity towards the Affordable Care Act.
“State based exchanges would lower cost for everyone; it’s not going to socialize health care,” said Redfern.