STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County's Oil and Gas Committee is getting nearly $50,000 in grant money to develop "Project Unite," a web-based communications system that will allow government leaders, school officials, industry and private citizens to share information and concerns as the shale oil and gas drilling industry moves forward.
The funding, earmarked by the Local Government Innovation Fund, is subject to state Controlling Board approval, but at Wednesday's meeting committee members began working on the kinds of information they'd like to see on the site.
"It should streamline (things)," Commissioner Dave Maple, the committee's moderator, said. "It gives the people of the community a little more transparency with the industry, it will reduce a lot of the frustration associated with the (shale) industry."
DISCUSS WEB-BASED SYSTEM — Jefferson County commissioners Tom Gentile, left, and Dave Maple discuss the kinds of information that should be included on a new web-based communications system the oil and gas committee is working on. The committee meets monthly in the Pugliese Center at Eastern Gateway Community College’s Steubenville campus. - Linda Harris
Dozens of community groups ranging from township trustees to city government, school leaders and business and industry endorsed the grant application in what the group's leaders have called an unprecedented collaborative effort.
"The most pleasant surprise was the number of entities that signed on as partners in support of the project and their interest and enthusiasm for the whole concept of collaboration," said Joy Howell, superintendent of the Jefferson County Educational Service Center and a key player in preparing the grant application.
Howell credited a shared desire to "improve the quality of life for the citizens of Jefferson County that linked us all together in this project, and truly made us a single, united team."
Commissioner Tom Gentile said the grant was "a remarkable example of what we can do when we want to."
"There's going to be a lot of useful information for our citizens, business and people looking for jobs, and a conduit for the industry to get information out," he said.
George Allan, who wrote the grant application before retiring from JCESC, said he's hoping the success of the initial collaboration "leads to more productive use of our resources and exchanges of information, exchanges of services and exchanges of ideas that can grow the county."
Once the state controlling board signs off on the grant, Jefferson Regional Planning Commission Director Domenick Mucci said they'll be able to issue a request for proposals and "create a punch list of what we'd like to see it be."
The committee meets monthly in the Pugliese Center at Eastern Gateway Community College's Steubenville campus.