NEGLEY - Middleton Township Trustees told Chesapeake Energy and CESO Inc. officials this week they expect certain things to happen before signing off on any future road use maintenance agreements.
The agreements, or RUMAs, require companies involved in the preparing and operation of drill sites to upgrade and maintain the roads being used to get to the sites and to resurface them when drilling is completed.
The board has already approved a RUMA for Vale Road, which Chesapeake has been using since April 9 to get to a well and water impoundment site in that area, and wells are expected to be drilled on the Benner property off Justison Road and the Bailey property on Scotts Mill Road.
The board has also signed other RUMAs with the company, but is refusing to sign off on an agreement for Scotts Mill Road because it calls for the township to be responsible for maintenance if the company can't.
Trustees Eldena Gearhart, Nancy Michaels and Timothy Pancake said that with only two full-time men and no part-time help, the road department lacks the manpower and ability to be on call for maintenance should the need arise. The department only recently lost its part-time seasonal worker since Roger Cain has accepted a full-time job in Lisbon. He has worked for the township roughly nine years, and was initially laid off last fall as a result of budget cuts but brought back later in the seasonal capacity. The board approved his early dismissal from the position shortly after speaking with Chesapeake on Monday.
As for the RUMA, Brett Bankert, Chesapeake field representative for Columbiana County, asked the board to sign it that evening, but trustees said they will only approve if it allows for the department to be responsible for maintenance of the road at their discretion. They also said they would not sign until the county engineer and prosecutor see the updated agreement first. Other minor changes were also requested by the board.
"Whatever you folks want, we obviously have to agree with," Bankert said, adding that the agreement would be updated to include the requested changes and presented to them later this week.
Chesapeake wants the RUMA to get to the planned well on the property owned by James and Joyce Bailey, who also attended the meeting and looked over the original agreement.
Yet another condition trustees gave to Chesapeake is that Vale Road be fixed before any future RUMAs are approved. They said the stone road being used by the company is in poor condition.
"We aren't happy with the road, and residents aren't happy with the road," Michaels said.
Chesapeake is using roughly seven-tenths of a mile of the road and has agreed to hire a contractor to have it chip and sealed by mid-October.
"We have estimates in, we are just waiting on the higher-ups," Bankert said.
The company was also requesting a RUMA for Riffle Road, but the agreement is now on hold until Vale Road is done.
Trustees were pleased to announce that a guard rail will be installed on Riffle Road at no cost to the township. They said the county has decided to install the rail as part of the bridge repair they are conducting there. The work is set to begin Sept. 19, and the road will be closed four weeks, trustees said.
Trustees then asked Bankert for a progress update on the Benner well.
Bankert said he drove by the property earlier that day and saw the well pad but wasn't sure when it would be drilled.
So far, a permit has not been issued there, trustees said.
On a related matter, Fiscal Officer Robert Chapman said the township has received a records request from a labor union. According to the request, the union wants the records of all the RUMAs the township has with Chesapeake, and contractors hired to work on maintaining the roads.
Chapman said the township doesn't have all the available records since the contractors are hired by Chesapeake and not the township, and told trustees that he sought advice from Prosecutor Andy Beech, who said that six other townships had also received the requests.
Chapman said Beech advised him to provide the available records they had and trustees approved a motion to make the records available per Beech's instruction.