Commissioners Share BOE’s Concerns Over Drilling Site

Ohio County commissioners are concerned about the safety of Wheeling Park High School students and staff if a Chesapeake Energy gas drilling site is established 1,300 feet from the school.

During a regular meeting Wednesday, Commissioners Tim McCormick, David Sims and Randy Wharton approved a resolution supporting the Ohio County Board of Education’s efforts to get the site moved farther away from the school. Commissioners said they share the same concerns that board members do – that if an explosion or some other problem occurred at the site it might be difficult to safely evacuate people from the building and area.

”The Ohio County Commission supports gas drilling in the county so long as safe drilling practices are used and emergency plans are in place including evacuation plans,” the resolution states.

The commission wants the parties involved to find an alternative site to alleviate the board’s concerns. It also requests that the ”West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection hold off in issuing any permits to allow more time for alternatives to be explored.”

Wharton said he wanted to stress the commission’s resolution was in no way an effort to stop a legitimate company from doing business in the county. Rather, it is simply a matter of safety. He said he hoped the DEP would slow down the permit process and hold public meetings on the matter.

McCormick, a retired WPHS teacher, said the county has a good relationship with Chesapeake. The county’s development arm, the Ohio County Development Authority, signed a lease deal with Chesapeake in 2010.

”It’s a safety issue. … In one building you have almost 2,000 people,” McCormick said.

In other matters, commissioners approved a $2,350 hotel tax budget request from R. ”Scat” Scatterday, Wheeling Rails to Trails project manager, who plans to use the money to install new markers on Heritage Trail. Scatterday said the money will be used to purchase markers from Flint Trading Inc. that will be melted onto the surface of the trail every 2/10 of a mile by city workers.

The markers will help people in need of assistance better identify their location.

Meanwhile, the commission approved spending $12,365 for new security gates and an electric fencing system at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport. The cost will be reimbursed by the Federal Aviation Administration after July 1.

The commission also acted as the pass-through agency for two different state Community Partnership Grants secured by Delegates Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, and Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio: $6,000 for YWCA’s Family Violence Prevention Program to upgrade its computer system and $6,000 for the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling for new flooring.

The commission will next meet at 6 p.m. June 5 in Room 215 of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St., Wheeling.