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Resident turns to commissioners for help educating residents about oil, gas leases

By Carol McIntire

Carroll County resident Ron Carlton compared Carroll County residents to sheep and the oil and gas landsmen to wolves when he spoke to county commissioners Monday.

“They are wolves out there harvesting sheep,” he said. “We are the sheep being led to slaughter.”

He was referring to the large number of landsmen representing oil and gas companies canvassing Carroll County to find residents to sign what he termed as “one-sided leases”.

Carlton said he was concerned residents are signing leases and not knowing what is contained in them. “People need to take a look at the leases that are being written,” he said. “Many people in the county are uninformed. They are unaware of what is happening. They are being misinformed by the landsmen. There is a lot of deception going on.”

Carlton said he is part of a group of landowners who formed a group to help educate landowners and let them know the value of their land.

Carlton said there is a misconception that the oil and gas companies are looking to drill in the Marcellus Shale layer. “It is the Utica Shale they are after which is between 8,000 and 8,500 feet deep,” Carlton explained. He produced a map showing the oil and gas locations in Ohio and Pennsylvania and described Carroll County as having a “wet supply.” “It’s the oil, not the gas, they are after,” he said.

He suggested landowners are better off by forming a group that has more bargaining power and allows small landowners to look like “bigger landowners.”

He said one group in Carroll County is being advised by Attorney Bill Williams and has created its own lease. The group has sent out a prospectus to 35 companies seeking bids for the lease rights.

He said at the present time, the group is accepting residents on what he called a “Plan B” that allows them to secure land with the group but does not afford them the same voting rights as those in the original group.

He said there is a second group that has been formed using attorneys in the Youngstown and Warren area.

He suggested commissioners do something to help residents.

Commissioner President Tom Wheaton said he believes commissioners should speak with the Prosecuting Attorney to find out what they can do. He also suggested speaking with officials from the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) and state legislators. “Perhaps we can identify groups people can call for information,” he said.

Several groups, including Farm Bureau, have conducted seminars to educate residents about the oil and gas boom that has been sweeping the county. Residents are encouraged to contact their attorney before signing any lease document.
In other business, commissioners:
-RECEIVED the fourth quarter investment report from Treasurer Jeff Yeager showing interest income of $50,323.52 on the $6 million invested. Total interest income for the year was $75,025.03. Yeager said interest for the year totaled $72,816.35 on general fund investments, which was slightly above the $70,000 he estimated. He is projecting interest income of $45,000 for 2011. Interest income for the quarter was up due to several Certificates of Deposit (CD) coming due. He noted all the county’s CDs are currently with Consumers National Bank because their rates were the best when it was time to renew the CDs. Rates range from a high of 1.09 percent to a low of .4 percent.

-WERE visited by Fox Twp. resident Robert Eish who asked commissioners to find documentation that Olive Rd. (located in Fox Twp.) was dedicated as a township road. He said trustees have been infringing upon his property for the last several years and he is going to get the matter settled once and for all.

"I want them to stay off my property," he said. Commissioner Doyle Hawk and Auditor E. Leroy VanHorne volunteered to help research the issue. Van Horne reported later in the day he found only a small section of Olive Rd. that is actually a township road.

-AGREED to establish a commissioners general fund retirement fund with approval form the Auditor of States. VanHorne said he checked with the county prosecutor and it is legal for the county to have as many retirement funds as office holders desire.

-HEARD Sheriff Dale Williams express appreciation to commissioners for paying a $9,620 bill for the Marcs Radio User fees.  Williams said his department received a $10,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Public Safety to purchase new cameras in the cruisers. There is no local match.

-ANNOUNCED Golden Age Retreat employees pay 12 percent of their health care insurance costs, rather than the eight percent listed in last week's FPS.

-RECEIVED the weekly dog report showing 19 impounded, 16 tagged and one redeemed.

-RECEIVED the monthly Golden Age Retreat report showing 15 male and 33 female residents during December.

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