Meeting a good start

The village of Belmont needs help. Fortunately, Mayor Stan Sobel isn’t afraid to ask for it.

Roads and streets in the small community are falling apart. The damage isn’t due to poor construction or standard wear and tear.

Instead, it appears to be a result of heavy truck traffic traveling through the village to reach natural gas and oil wells all around the area. An engineer with one of the four companies operating nearby acknowledged that last week during a tour of the damage with Sobel and Ohio Department of Transportation officials.

Representatives of EQT, a firm that has a field office in the center of town and wells just outside village limits, examined the concerns with ODOT and Sobel. ODOT officials said they would provide EQT with the names of pre-authorized paving companies that could begin to repair the problem. Sobel is waiting to hear back from EQT about what the company can do to help.

But the mayor isn’t just waiting around for someone else to resolve concerns about the condition of roads in the village. In addition to the meeting already held, Sobel is in the process of setting up a sort of round table session with all four gas producers that operate nearby, as well as with representatives of other area communities. He hopes that providing a chance for dialogue will help small villages such as Belmont obtain the help they need from the heavy truck operators.

In addition to EQT, Sobel plans to invite representatives of Ascent Resources, XTO Energy and Gulfport Energy to join the session. He is working with Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, to arrange the meeting, potentially in March.

Besides seeking help directly from those energy producers now, Sobel also aims to get the attention of state legislators. He hopes they will propose some laws to address such problems. State Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, for example, has long advocated for a larger share of oil and gas severance tax proceeds to be funneled back to the area where the resources are produced. That money could be used for road and infrastructure maintenance.

Sobel’s plan is a good one, and we urge the invited companies and communities to participate. A group conversation may not solve the problem, but talking openly about it is a good place to start.