CADIZ - Harrison County commissioners met in regular session Wednesday in the courthouse with a new addition to the meeting.
Clerk Brandi Burton had returned from a medical leave and put new digital recording equipment into service to record the commissioners meeting minutes.
"We will be using the new digital recording equipment today," Chairman Barbara Pincola announced as she called the meeting to order.
The commissioners went through the usual round of transfers and appropriations and when the monthly bills for the Harrison County Home came to the desk Pincola took the opportunity to note that Admissions Coordinator Gertrude V. Rogers has announced her retirement tentatively scheduled for the end of May this year.
"We are in the process of putting together a job description and will be advertising for applications for a replacement," Pincola said.
The chairman also announced that Gene Wilson from Sen. Sherrod Brown's office would be in attendance at the Monday work session next week. "Gene will be here at 11 o'clock to meet the new commissioner and speak with commissioners about local issues," Pincola said, adding that all were welcome to attend.
Commissioner Don Bethel spoke to the board about his recent trip to the County Commissioners Association of Ohio meeting in Warren.
"We are excited about the opportunity and want to partner with the gas companies and maybe get in on the revenue side to offset expenses," Bethel told his fellow commissioners.
Bethel further explained that there is some risk incurred when the drilling takes place. The commissioners attended an informational meeting on the gas drilling process and Bethel stated that there is a risk below ground from methane seepage and ground water being tainted by chemicals used in the process and above ground from the transportation of the large amounts of brine water retrieved from the wells that must be transported to special treatment plants for processing.
"There is a risk involved in this process," Bethel said. "While gas drilling companies are responsible, accidents can happen and we need to be compensated for those risks."
"I want to stress to the public to use prudence and good judgment when signing leases," said Bethel. "I would also encourage anyone with a well to get a water sample from a third party if any drilling is to take place within 1,000 feet of their home."
"The commissioners have a responsibility to the public and to look out for townships and villages as well," Bethel told media representatives present. "Everybody has to be part of that equation."
"It would be a good idea to get coal and limestone, too," said Commissioner Bill Host.
"We are not prepared to make a unified statement," Barb Pincola said, stating that Bethel did not speak for the entire board of commissioners.
"We have not had a chance to review this information and we have been working with these companies for the past two years," she added.
Pincola said these are statewide issues that need to be dealt with at the legislative level, "There are lobbyists that are addressing this issue and working to find legislation that will benefit local government and townships. It has got be fought at the 30,000 foot level."
"There are clauses in individual leases for replacing land and water and we will have that clause in ours," Pincola added.
"Townships are worried that land owners are profiting from selling these leases but the companies need to use township roads to access drilling sites," the chairman stated. "The water for the drilling is contracted from the county and the water that comes back up has to be treated and we are looking into that process as well."
"I am not in any way criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency and would never do so," said Bethel. "They are simply overwhelmed with the current number of wells, there is one inspector for every 5,000 wells."
"I believe this will be a positive for gas companies and county governments as well," Bethel concluded. "I have already taken calls on this from townships and commissioners form other counties. With the current round of upcoming budget cuts, we are all being encouraged to find new ways counties can generate their own revenue."
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