Airport authority gets $219,000 oil, gas royalty payment

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County Regional Airport Authority has landed a royalty check for gas drilled under airport property.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the check is in the amount of $219,000.

“It is great news for the county airport. It will greatly benefit the airport,” he said.

Gary Folden, airport authority secretary-treasurer, said the check will be referred to the attorney handling the mineral rights at the airport.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said the oil and gas lease the airport authority signed will be checked against the royalty payment to make sure it is correct, noting the oil and gas companies tend to take deductions that are not included in the lease terms.

The commissioners have a policy to refer royalty payments to the county’s mineral rights attorney. The commissioners then sign the check under protest, informing the gas and oil company it may not be following the exact terms of the lease.

Airport authority President Brandon Reese said he doesn’t expect any immediate spending at the airport.

“I am very excited for additional resources to make necessary safety and other improvements to the county’s airport,” Reese said. “Airports are important economic infrastructure, but they are very demanding and extremely expensive to maintain and operate. Even large amounts of money are depleted quickly in airport business, so careful and methodic planning is absolutely critical.”

Reese said the Federal Aviation Administration has supplied the bulk of the money for the airport and improvements. He noted the airport authority must spend its money in compliance with FAA regulations.

Reese said the gas and oil royalty payments could be used to leverage matching grants for improvements, adding the board needs to develop a strategic and disciplined approach concerning how the extra revenue will be spent.

Graham said he believes the gas royalty income could help make the airport self-sufficient.

The county this year has provided $125,000 of the airport’s budget of $330,363. The airport has slightly more than $400,000 in its mineral proceeds account, which is separate from its general fund, according to the county auditor’s office.

Gentile noted gas wells peak at the beginning of production and then taper off.

“You can’t assume we will always get the same amount,” he said.

He added the gas royalty income can help make the airport self-sufficient.

(Law can be contacted at mlaw@heraldstaronline.com.)