The Poland Township Board of Trustees heard a pair of proposals that would allow for gas exploration in the township, including in Lowellville Cemetery, at their Jan. 11 meeting.
John Phillip, representing Campbell Development of Fort Worth, Texas, presented trustees with a lease that would grant non-surface mineral rights to drill for natural gas under the 35-acre cemetery off Stewart Road. From a drilling point approximately one mile away, using horizontal drilling techniques, hydraulic fracturing would release natural gas from approximately 12,000 to 14,000 feet below the cemetery. He told trustees that his company has been in negotiations with the owners of approximately 10 acres adjacent to the cemetery for a drilling site.
Campbell's proposal for a five-year agreement contained an initial $140,000 signing fee, plus 16 percent royalty fees for the township.
Township Administrator Jim Scharville asked Phillip about whether the family members of the approximately 4,000 people buried in the cemetery would be entitled to royalty payments.
"When you buy a plot, you actually own that plot, and you own it all the way down," Scharville explained. Phillips said that his company had leased cemetery property in the past and would perform "the due diligence" to properly compensate plot owners.
Also speaking before trustees was Damian DeGenova of Youngstown-based Sulmona Energy, who petitioned the board not with a lease, but for the right to represent Poland Township in negotiations with energy companies interested in leasing land for such drilling. His proposal was similar to what he has presented to Poland Village Council over recent weeks, saying that he hopes to pool local land parcels into a larger package to negotiate with energy companies.
DeGenova said that Sulmona has partnered with Ohio Valley Energy of Austintown with hopes of amassing a total 10,000 acres around Poland to negotiate with.
"We think when you go to somebody with 10,000 acres, you can make a better bargain," DeGenova said.
Scharville asked if anyone had checked about the amount of acreage that is actual township property. DeGenova suggested that it was 98 acres, including both Lowellville Cemetery and the 1.5-acre Poland Center Cemetery adjacent to Struthers Road.
Trustees unanimously passed a motion for township solicitor David Shepherd to study the proposals from Sulmona Energy and Campbell Development before taking any action.
Mike Heher, Poland Park Board chairman and manager of the nearby Carbon Limestone Landfill, said that his company, Republic Services, is the largest landowner in Mahoning County and in negotiations with several companies already. He offered his experience in the process to trustees as they move forward.
After discussing snow-plowing measures in the township, Trustee Robert Lidle suggested the construction of a walkway through the lawn that currently separates the parking lots of Poland Seminary High School and the township administration building. He said that Poland Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Zorn came to him with the suggestion after hearing from the parents of high school students who pick up their children in the administration building parking lot. He also suggested the path could be used for people who utilize the parking lot for overflow parking during PSHS home football games.
A motion to accept written bids for the connecting walkway, as well as for a new sidewalk along Ohio 170 from Dobbins Road northwest to the village line, between Coblentz Drive and Stoner Avenue, passed unanimously.
In other news:
* Scharville reminded township residents that Christmas trees will be accepted for recycling until Jan. 31.
* The board unanimously passed a resolution to advertise for additional seasonal help with snow plowing. Naples emphasized that it would be on an as-needed basis only and would not lead into eventual full-time or part-time employment.