Harrison County resident requests RUMA assistance

CADIZ – When natural-gas drillers arrived in Harrison County, resident Jim Rosenberry, a retired district manager for Beaver Excavating, saw the economic benefits of leasing property going to his neighbors while he received nothing. Rosenberry leased his property for the deep gas but was bypassed when it came time to drill, and when he went in search of a reason, he concluded the problem stemmed from a stringent Road Use and Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) being used by Washington Township trustees.

The Washington Township resident addressed the county commissioners regarding the issue at a prior meeting and once again appeared before the board Wednesday asking for help in finding a resolution. The RUMA for Washington Township includes a sentence not found in other agreements used in the county. While other RUMAs release the company drilling the well at the completion of the process, the document from his township states, “Completion of said drilling is not just for the termination of this agreement, as long as the well is in operation/production this RUMA is to remain in effect.”

“The oversize trucks hauling to and from drilling sites are tearing up local roads, creating hazardous conditions,” said Washington Township trustee Bob Stewart. “The safety of the residents was and continues to be the primary concern of the trustees.”

“Gulfport Energy (the company Rosenberry has signed his lease with) has not approached us to negotiate the agreement,” Stewart added. “We want Gulfport to participate. We want them to do it right, we want them to do it safely, and at no cost to the taxpayers.”

“If these gas and oil companies strengthen and upgrade the roadways with due diligence beforehand, this is not an issue,” commission chair Dale Norris explained. “The townships and the county are more than willing to be more lenient,”

Norris explained that these same companies in neighboring Carroll County had completed full-depth reclamation of roads prior to using them for drilling. “This process completely rehabilitates and reinforces the structural strength of the underlying base of the road, Then it will hold up to the traffic for the life of the well and there is no need for long term bonding or RUMAs.”

Harrison County Engineer’s Office Business Service Officer Doug Crabtree explained that the state’s model RUMA does not address safety issues. “There are no stipulations for driveways or designation of responsibility for signage, there are no provisions to maintain accessibility for fire, law enforcement or EMS.”

“Stock Township requires each company requesting a RUMA to supply 100 ton of stone,” Crabtree said. “Even when we get them signed, there is the issue of ‘can we enforce them’.”

Norris cited a road in the county which had been scheduled to be repaired last summer by an oil and gas company which still has not been touched. “Measures to ensure that roads are repaired don’t capture the full cost of damage, potentially leaving taxpayers holding the bill.”

“The fact of the matter is that the Washington Township Trustees, as well as other township trustees within the county, their main duty is to make sure that the township roads are passable,” County Prosecutor Michael Washington explained. “The commissioners have no control over the trustees.”

“The county has formed a committee to establish what is called a model township RUMA which will be presented at the annual township trustee dinner,” Washington stated. “We have developed this RUMA to both keep the roads passable and keeping the drillers and pipeline companies in line and requiring them to fix what need to be repaired because we have had many companies that sign the agreement but they do not follow through.”

No action was taken by the board on the issue.

In other business: Commissioner Bill Host asked Treasurer Vicki Sefsick if any auctions to dispose of property with delinquent taxes had been scheduled. The treasurer replied that while several liens are in place on delinquent properties the prosecutor had no delinquent sales scheduled at this time.

One bid was received for the roof on the courthouse from McKinley & Associates of Wheeling for $1,000,000. The bid was tabled for one week to review.

Jason Peterson of GeoStar presented a proposal for savings to the board for electric and natural gas utilities, waste disposal and workers compensation. The proposal was tabled for one week to review.

The board passed a transfer of $1,800 for purchase of chairs for the License Bureau and Title Office, and transferred $2,000 to the local match fund for the CESA.

Sheriff Joe Myers reminded everyone that the monthly Oil and Gas Safety Meeting would be Monday at 10 a.m. at the Puskarich Library in Cadiz.

Palmer may be reached at mpalmer@timesleaderonline.com