Use Barnesville Windfall Wisely

Six million dollars is a lot of money. But when it comes to operating a municipality such as Barnesville, that amount of cash could be gone in a hurry if not managed wisely.

Fortunately, Barnesville village officials intend to put the money to good use.

Village Council members voted this week to sign an agreement for gas drilling on 1,047 acres of village-owned land outside the municipal limits. The community will receive $5,700 per acre, or nearly $6 million, as an “up-front” payment for signing the lease. If gas and/or oil are produced from wells on the property, Barnesville will receive 20 percent of the proceeds.

No doubt many village residents have ideas on what to do with the money. New facilities or local government services probably will be proposed.

And village employees probably have their own ideas about the cash. Pay raises will be on the minds of some.

After revealing the deal, Mayor Ron Bischof said village officials are “going to be very cautious” with the money. “We’re going to sit down, make a plan and carry it out,” he said.

Again, expect Bischof and council to hear plenty of suggestions on what to do with the money.

They should bear in mind it is a windfall for Barnesville, not an ongoing source of revenue. Using it to establish new services or increase the cost of existing ones, perhaps through pay raises, may not be prudent.

Like many other local governments, Barnes-ville’s has had to tighten its belt during recent years. The recession and cutbacks in state spending have been a reminder that hard times can hit unexpectedly.

Use of much of the gas lease money to provide a cushion for the future would be appropriate in Barnesville, then. Village officials should bear that in mind in deciding what to do with the money and any future revenue from gas wells on municipal property.