WELLSBORO - The Tioga County commissioners were questioned by Millerton resident John Kesich during their meeting Tuesday about why they didn't invite members of the press to a meeting in early March with North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue at Mansfield University.
Perdue had visited to discuss with commissioners their experience with the natural gas industry in the Northern Tier because a natural gas play had been discovered beneath her state and they were considering allowing hydraulic fracturing to harvest the gas.
A follow-up report on the meeting appeared in the Sun-Gazette a few days later, in the form of an interview with Commissioner Erick Coolidge.
On Tuesday, Coolidge responded to Kesich's implication that the meeting was kept "secret" from the public purposely.
"I find it troubling this kind of meeting was held secretly. You didn't send out a press release. You knew you were going. It seems to me a big deal that the governor of North Carolina was coming and no press release was sent out and no reporters were invited," Kesich said.
Coolidge disagreed that the meeting was held secretly, but noted that because the commissioners did not arrange the meeting, it was not up to them to inform and invite the press to attend.
After the meeting, he continued, the university's public relations department photographed attendees, who were mostly members of the governor's staff, commissioners from Tioga and Bradford counties, and natural gas industry representatives, Coolidge added.
"They wanted to know our experiences with development of oil and gas harvesting in our region. There are several counties in the northern part of her state that hold large deposits. She reversed her earlier opinion after coming here and viewing the sites, seeing the production, putting her hands in the mixing mud and hearing what has been implemented in terms of safety measures and changed her mind," Coolidge said.
In other business, the commissioners approved the disbursement of liquid fuels funds for five municipalities including $1,989 for Gaines Township for plastic pipe and bands, $8,524 for Delmar Township for gravel, $3,338 for Farmington Township for stone, $4,452 for Lawrence Township for road roller rental and $1,117 for Tioga Borough to install storm water line.