COLUMBIANA - With land-owners across the county signing oil and gas leases, Columbiana City Council members are debating whether to pursue a lease for city-owned property.
Council President Lowell Schloneger has said he is concerned about a planned gas well near one of the city's largest water wells on Camelot Drive.
Council had discussed a non-drill lease agreement following an executive session on Jan. 3. Schloneger suggested then the city look into a non-drill lease to have more control over local drilling; namely, to put more distance between the gas well on Fairfield School Road and the water well.
Last week, Council members planned to discuss leasing in detail but decided to push the discussion to the next meeting since two council members were absent.
City Manager Keith Chamberlin said he is conducting an inventory of city-owned land, should council decide to lease property.
He also said he and Municipal Attorney Daniel Blasdell discussed the matter and agreed council should hear from others before making a decision.
"If council wishes to go forward with something maybe we ought to bring in some different legal advice," Chamberlin said.
Schloneger suggested they speak with attorney Alan Wenger of Harrington, Hoppe and Mitchell. Wenger, a South Range High School graduate, practices land use law, environmental law and public utilities law, among others.
Schloneger also suggested Chamberlin contact local municipalities which have already signed leases to gather input.
Councilman Tom Ferguson asked if it would be more beneficial to lease as a unit than individually.
"I guess it's reasonable to conclude that if you have more acres, you would have (more revenue)," Blasdell said.
But Chamberlin noted that other areas may not have the same concerns as Columbiana.
"We have a lot of water issues. I don't know if others have that concern," he said, referring to council's previous discussions about how gas wells could potentially affect the city's nine water wells.
"The threshold question is whether or not council wants to do this," Blasdell said.
The discussion will be continued at the next council meeting, set for 7 p.m. April 3.