By DAVE GOSSETT
STEUBENVILLE - Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich Tuesday night called for officials to consider selling leasing rights to city-owned land to oil and gas companies interested in drilling horizontally under the community.
GAS AND OIL DISCUSSION — Steubenville 6th Ward Councilman David Lalich pointed to a city map Tuesday night during a discussion regarding horizontal drilling for gas and oil under the city. -- Dave Gossett
"We have city laws that prohibit mining or drilling within the city limits. But the oil and gas companies can go horizontally under the city from drill sites outside of the city. There are several people in the city, including Franciscan University, who have already sold the leasing rights to their property. I feel the entire city should sell lease rights," Lalich said during an economic development committee meeting.
"I was thinking about the city-owned Beatty Park, Belleview Park and Jim Wood Park. Any money from the lease rights could be used for recreation or quality-of-life issues in the city. We need all the help we can get," Lalich added.
"This is an avenue we should pursue. We have already sold the lease rights at the former city landfill to Hess Energy. We can contact other oil and gas companies to see if they are interested. We need to put out feelers," said Lalich.
He noted he has asked Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi to develop maps that list every property owner in the city.
"We need to find other communities in the same situation and pick their brains. I don't know why we shouldn't pursue it. It is an opportunity. We need to look at alternative ways to generate income. And we may have to resolve any fracking issues," stated Ed Florak, a city resident and member of the Jefferson County Port Authority.
"Barnesville just went through this and their citizens and their school district are benefiting from the oil and gas industry. And, these oil companies are very interested in helping local communities," remarked Councilman at large Kenny Davis.
"I think this is worth pursuing. The oil and gas industry is here and we might as well capitalize on it," noted Mayor Domenick Mucci.
"You have a unique situation here because you have several large landowners within the city, including the Catholic Diocese, WTOV-TV, the two cemeteries and the city parks. You have several large stakeholders who might already be selling their lease rights. This could put money into the community through jobs and taxes. This is a resource that should be considered. But we must also act as good stewards of the environment," said city businessman Mark Nelson.
During the council sunshine meeting, 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto officially requested a meeting with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from the Cleveland office to discuss the number of public housing units and Section 8 subsidized housing units in the city.
"I also want a discussion on the criminal activities in the city related to out-of-town people who are living in the Section 8 housing. We want a safe community for our residents. But we are also limited in what we can do by the federal rules and regulations for public housing and Section 8 housing. We need to make necessary changes for the health and safety of our residents," said DiLoreto.
Lalich introduced legislation to amend the city's table of organization in order to bring back five laid-off firefighters.
The city's Civil Service Commission last week ruled the city administration erred when the five firefighters were laid off without a 14-day notice.
Lalich also introduced a resolution declaring May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day in the city.
In other business:
- 2nd Ward Councilman Rick Perkins thanked Shirley DiCarlantonio for serving as acting council clerk for the past four months.
"And, Councilman Lalich and I will be at Jim Wood Park at 9:30 a.m. Saturday to prepare to plant six new memorial trees. Anyone interested in helping are welcome to join us," Perkins said.
A series of committee meetings were set for Tuesday including:
- 6 p.m. utility committee meeting to discuss malfunctioning water meters.
- A 6:15 p.m. service committee meeting regarding possible changes to code enforcement laws and revising the sanitation collection schedule.
- A 6:45 p.m. safety committee meeting to talk about traffic surveillance cameras.
Following the public meeting council met for approximately 35 minutes in executive session to discuss personnel.