Spending Wheeling Windfall Prudently

Wheeling municipal government’s coffers are about to gain $2 million, as a result of a plan to lease mineral rights to 336 acres of city-owned property. That may be just the beginning. If wells are drilled and natural gas is found, royalties could begin flowing to the city.

It is imperative that the proceeds, both from the $2 million up-front payment and any royalty income, be used wisely.

For starters, that means not merely feeding the money into the city’s operating budget. Doing that would create ongoing programs that would require funding in the future — and the gas money will, at some point, dry up. Once that happens, taxpayers are on the hook.

A better plan would be to use the money for economic development and/or capital improvements. The need for a major sewerage system upgrade comes to mind.

City Council members are well aware of the perils of using the gas revenue without regard to the future. They should take their time to map out a spending program that benefits the city in the long run.