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Commission Considers Deal

By Staff | Apr 6, 2011

Wetzel County commissioners are considering a potential lease to allow Marcellus Shale gas drilling on county-owned property.

A representative of Stone Energy appeared before the commissioners at their meeting on March 29 and was willing to discuss publicly the terms of the lease.

But Wetzel County Prosecutor Timothy Haught suggested the matter was instead one for a closed-door session, since it involved contract negotiations. Commissioners took no action on the matter.

“There are too many procedural hoops involved for us to decide anything today,” Commissioner Scott Lemley said.

Commissioners spoke of how drilling already under way throughout the county has damaged the road system in Wetzel County and how dust becomes a problem during summer months.

“White houses are turning gray,” said Commission President Donald E. Mason.

The damaged roads aren’t a county issue, though, as they are owned by the state, he noted.

Until recently, Chesapeake Energy had organized Citizens Advisory Panel group meetings, where those affected by the drilling could voice their concerns. But the company recently completed its drilling work and is moving its rigs out of Wetzel County, according to Mason. Chesapeake continues to operate several wells there after completing the drilling process.

“The CAP has been disbanded until further notice,” he said. “But they will be back, I’m sure.”

In other matters before the commission on March 29, Sheriff James Hoskins told commissioners that tending to mental hygiene patients in the county is taxing his department. His deputies this year already have had to transport 40 mental hygiene patients to care facilities, he said. In 2010, more than 150 were transported.

Northwood Health Systems has a facility in New Martinsville, commissioners noted. Many patients are brought into the county to begin the admissions process, they said.

“We bill the other counties the cost we incur,” Mason said. “But it does take deputies away from their work.”

In related matters, the Wetzel County Building Commission will hold a public meeting at 1 p.m. on April 7 at the Wetzel County Commission office, located immediately north of the Wetzel County Courthouse on Main Street in New Martinsville.

J. B. Bridgeman, building commission chairman, said the purpose of the meeting is to review and consider a proposed oil and gas lease from Stone Energy for 114.04 acres of land in New Martinsville.

Representatives of Stone Energy have met regularly with the Wetzel County Commission on the matter.

After a period for public comment on the proposal, the building commission will vote on it.