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Hundreds protest aquifer plan

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    Fayette resident Dan Nicely speaks out against sharing water with Toledo suburbs during the Pioneer Village Council meeting.

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    Pioneer resident Chris Nafziger tells Pioneer, Ohio, Mayor Edward Kidston that he's against the violent threats against the mayor, but not to forget why he's mayor, during the Pioneer Village Council meeting at the Pioneer Community Center.

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    Hillsdale, Mich., resident Lee Thomas protests against a resolution pertaining to the Michindoh Aquifer controversy before the Pioneer Village Council meeting.

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    Bryan, Ohio, resident Lou Pendleton speaks out against sharing water from the Michindoh Aquifer with Toledo suburbs during the Pioneer Village Council meeting.

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    Bryan, Ohio, resident Lee Clymer speaks during the Pioneer Village Council meeting in Pioneer, Ohio.

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    Pioneer Mayor Edward Kidston listens to citizens protest against sharing their water with Toledo suburbs during the Pioneer Village Council meeting.

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    Pioneer councilman Albert Kwader listens to mayor Edward Kidston during the Pioneer Village Council meeting. Mr. Kwader called for his resignation during the meeting.

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    Pioneer resident Gary Crider speaks out against sharing water during the Pioneer Village Council meeting.

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    Bryan, Ohio, resident Monica Kolovich, left, and Osseo, Mich., resident Al Landers protest against a resolution pertaining to the Michindoh Aquifer controversy before the Pioneer Village Council meeting in Pioneer, Ohio.

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    People protest before the Pioneer Village Council meeting in Pioneer, Ohio.

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PIONEER, Ohio — A boisterous crowd of 200 people showed extreme displeasure with Pioneer Mayor Ed Kidston’s plan to sell Michindoh Aquifer water to Toledo-area suburbs on Monday night, first with a protest outside the Pioneer Community Center and then inside it during the village’s monthly meeting.

The mayor, once most people had left, went so far as to describe the large group of attendees as an angry “mob,” saying he has no plans to stop his project.

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Fayette resident Dan Nicely speaks out against sharing water with Toledo suburbs during the Pioneer Village Council meeting.

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His plan is to have his company, Artesian of Pioneer, sell Perrysburg, Maumee, Sylvania, and other communities between Lucas and Williams counties water it either draws from wells or pays farmers to do so. The aquifer in question serves several Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana counties. It lies almost exclusively beneath Williams County.

Dozens of people — some from Michigan and Indiana — implored Mayor Kidston, who has been in office the past 19 years, to end negotiations.

Many held signs that said things such as “Save Our Water,” “Greed is a Sin,” and “Mr. Kidston Needs to Stop.” One type of sign, held by several people, portrayed an image of Mr. Kidston’s face in a “Wanted” poster.

WATCH: Protesters voice concerns over selling aquifer water

“How do we get subsidized for the natural resources that are about to be taken away from us?” Lee Clymer, a Williams County resident since 1940 and one of several speakers who addressed the mayor, asked. 

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Pioneer councilman Albert Kwader listens to mayor Edward Kidston during the Pioneer Village Council meeting. Mr. Kwader called for his resignation during the meeting.

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A resolution calling for an end to the project, passed by Bryan, West Unity, Edgerton, Edon, and other communities, died for a lack of a second. The motion was brought by Councilman Albert Kwader, who later in the meeting asked for Mayor Kidston’s resignation. He declined. Similar resolutions have failed not only in Pioneer but also Montpelier and Holiday City.

“Nobody shop in this town. Nobody buy anything,” an angry Josh Nichols, who has organized weekly rallies around Bryan’s Courthouse Square the past few Sundays, yelled on his way out of the building.

One Pioneer businessman, Jim Fee, owner of Jim’s Gym and Jim’s Barbershop, said during the meeting and during a follow-up interview that Mr. Kidston’s plan is hurting Pioneer’s wholesome image.

“This has cast a very dark cloud over our town,” Mr. Fee said. “People are confused and very scared.”

Chris Nafziger is a Pioneer resident who said he is trying to give Mr. Kidston the benefit of the doubt — and hear him out instead of becoming emotional.

He expressed concern about reports of harassment against the mayor and his family, but then chastised Mr. Kidston for refusing to let Dan Nicely, of Fayette, speak simply because Mr. Nicely hadn’t arrived in time to sign a sheet that was circulated before the meeting.

“I’m not as quick to bash you just because I think you have a dumb idea,” Mr. Nafziger said. “Don’t forget to listen to people who want to be heard.”

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Pioneer Mayor Edward Kidston listens to citizens protest against sharing their water with Toledo suburbs during the Pioneer Village Council meeting.

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Mr. Kidston initially refused to take questions. But after most people left, he had a lot to say.

“Don’t be scared to death by a lot of people running around without facts,” he said. “Wait for the facts before you pass judgment on me and my family.”

Mr. Kidston said the unusually large and vocal crowd for tiny Pioneer “came here to intimidate us.”

“I’m not going to take the mob’s word for it that the world’s going to end tomorrow,” he said.

Dick Long, Bryan Board of Public Affairs chairman, which joined that city’s council in opposition to Mr. Kidston’s plan at a joint meeting last month, implored Pioneer village councilmen to “slow down your mayor.”

Pioneer Council President Rod Eckley and Pioneer Councilman Connie Salisbury said they didn’t second Mr. Kwader’s motion to end the project because they didn’t have enough information.

“I feel like Donald Trump here,” Mr. Kidston said near the end of the meeting. “I can’t win.” 

Contact Tom Henry at thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

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