Use Some Lease Money for Roads

Belmont County commissioners – and taxpayers – have reason to be very happy about the gas drilling boom.

Last week, commissioners agreed to lease 424.6 acres of mineral rights to Rice Energy, for an up-front payment of nearly $3.48 million. In April, commissioners got another $3.04 million through a 400-acre lease with Rice.

That may be just the beginning. If drillers hit gas on the properties, the county will rake in even more money through royalty payments.

Commissioners have not finalized plans for the money, though it appears they will use much of it to pay down county debts. That would be a prudent course of action.

But, in part because of terrible weather last week, many county roads are in deplorable condition. Repairing them is a pressing need and something many county residents want done.

Commissioners, recognizing the unusual nature of the need, would do well to earmark some of the lease proceeds to make repairs to county roads and bridges.