Belmont Officials Seek Oil/Gas Leases on County Property

Belmont County commissioners are following the trend of hundreds of private landowners in the county who have signed oil and gas leases on their properties.

The commissioners are seeking proposals from the many gas and oil companies operating in the county for “leasing the rights to extract oil, natural gas, and any and all constituents” from land owned by the county.

Over 400 acres of land in various sections of the county are owned by the county. At one time the county owned thousands of acres, including the entire acreage that is Ohio University Eastern and its surrounding campus as well as the acreage on which the Belmont County Correctional Center is located.

Much of the currently owned county property is located in the St. Clairsville-Barnesville area. In the Tacoma Park area on Ohio 147 east of Barnesville and behind the former Bob’s Chevrolet Building, are about 167 acres; in the Ohio 331 area and behind the prison are approximately 67 acres, in the Hammond Road area are approximately 103 acres and in the Oak View area, 46 acres.

Term of the leases would be for three years with no right of renewal. Also requested in the proposals are at least a 19 percent royalty and a signing bonus of $5,000.

The county is reserving the right to reject any and all proposals and also is maintaining no obligation to enter into a lease agreement with any of the firms submitting a proposal. Bids will be opened by the commission during its meeting on Feb. 8.

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The confusion created over the proposal advanced originally to hold two primary elections on March 6 and June 12 in 2012 threw a monkey wrench into the plans of school boards and other organizations to include levy issues for the approval of voters.

One of them was the Belmont County commissioners, who planned to place a 1- mill levy on the June 6 ballot for financing an upgrade of the 911 emergency communications system in the county. Since the redistricting issue which was at the forefront of the dual primary proposal was settled, the June 6 primary was voided and the levy plans fell by the wayside because the filing date for the March 6 primary had passed.

As a result the county commissioners now are expected to place the 1-mill levy for the approval of voters at the Nov. 6 general election. The 911 levy issue was defeated at last November’s general election.

The newly created fire district in the Shadyside-Mead Township area likewise had planned to place a 1-mill levy up for a vote on June 6. The Bellaire School District was also planning to have a levy issue on the ballot for the June 6 primary.

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State and Belmont County officials, as well as those in townships, cities and towns throughout the county are silently thankful and heaving a sigh of relief for the weather conditions Mother Nature dished out during November and December.

During that two-month period in 2010, highway and street crews from those governmental bodies were out in full force battling one major snow storm after another. More than 10 inches of snow fell and in some areas it measured over a foot.

But the past two months has been a much different. Snowfall has measured less than one inch. And just at one time the county had to call out the cinder crew for a minor skidding accident. Not having a measurable snowfall has saved thousands of dollars in man hours, cost of salt and cinders and equipment maintenance.

During that same period a year ago, Belmont County Engineer Fred Bennett exclaimed “we had to call out the street crews at least eight or 10 times.” And each time the crews were dispatched they went out on the roads with 100 tons of salt, 100 tons of grit and 50 tons of cinder. “In December we had to do some salting just one time because of ice on the road.”

Ty Justice at the Ohio Department of Transportation district office in Morristown had an equally money saving report. “We had to call out a full crew just once in December.” But there were a few minor calls. Justice added that a single truck was sent out five or six times to handle slick spots, to cope with “when the frost freezes on the bridges and the roads,”

One other problem in December a year ago occurred when heavy rain came early in the month on top of a large snow accumulation of snow, causing a creek flooding threat. But for the most part that ended up just being a threat with a few basements getting water but no major flooding.

While highway and street crews will welcome a continuation of the weather conditions from the past two months, snow lovers who enjoy skiing and sled riding are probably chomping at the bit over the absence of the white stuff.

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Formation of a Belmont County Young Democrat organization got off to what party chairman Ed Good called “a great start.” A total of 35 party faithful showed up for the initial meeting last week.

Although only 11 of the 35 present were under the young Dem age of 36, “we had 10 other candidates who called to be members but could not attend the meeting because of school, work or other commitments,” Good noted. “With over 20 members, it gives us a good start for a Young Democrat organization.”

Among those who attended that initial meeting even though they were not eligible for membership were several parents of the members as well as 95th district state representative candidate William Weekley of Martins Ferry, county commission candidate Ginny Favede and two candidates for county treasurer, Katherine Curfman and Bill Shaheen, both of St. Clairsville.

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Imagine a child’s surprise and delight to look out a window on the day before Christmas Eve and see a real live reindeer just a few feet away.

For 2-year-old Elsa Conrad it was a thrill not only because it was almost Christmas and but also because such sights don’t happen at her home in the bustling big city of Chicago. She was visiting with her grandparents, George and Debby Carroll on Caroline Street in St. Clairsville.

She had plenty of time to observe the deer. After munching on grass, the doe decided it was a good place to rest and relax on the lawn. Then the day after Christmas the deer was back again to eat and rest.

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There’s a new factory at the Ohio Valley Mall but it’s not the kind that will provide jobs for the county’s unemployed. But it is one that a whole lot of kids are enjoying.

Housed in the huge space previously occupied by Paradox Motor Sports and before them, Old Navy, are a dozen or more inflatables about 10 feet high where children can be seen literally bouncing around and enjoying themselves. The “Fun Factory Fun Zone” is on a six-month lease in the mall.

Owned by Bill Benton of Fayetteville, W.Va., the huge layout of inflatables has attracted as many as 150 tiny tots in a day. Included are two bounce houses named Sponge Bob and Patricia, a big double slide that stands about 10 feet tall, an obstacle house, a football toss, Ninja obstacle course, basketball court, climbing rock wall, miniature golf and numerous other activities.

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My sincere wish that this new year of 2012 brings you good health and happiness. Happy New Year.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at: