Gas drilling moratorium lifted in City

Gas drilling in White Settlement. (File Photo Grizzly Detail)
Gas drilling in White Settlement. (File Photo Grizzly Detail)

by A.C. Hall

On Tuesday the White Settlement City Council voted unanimously to repeal the moratorium they placed on gas drilling permits as they approved a new version of the City’s gas drilling ordinance.  This came after council heard from Holland Land Services about their attempts to catalog all of the city’s properties that are under contract with Chesapeake and figure out if royalty payments are being correctly made to the City.  Diana Frazier of Holland told the council that the City has eleven properties leased to Chesapeake and that she had positive news about how they were being handled by the energy company.

“They are paying what the leases state and according to those leases,” Frazier said.

She did mention that Chesapeake was allowed to take some transportation and marketing fees from the royalties, but this is a part of their lease agreement with the City.

Next, council considered approval of the new gas drilling ordinance.  A list of the main changes was provided in the council packet and they included updated technical requirements such as noise abatement standards, the city’s preference that waterless fracking be used, and many more minor changes and rewordings.

A motion was made to approve the new ordinance with the understanding that the moratorium on drilling permits would be lifted.  That motion passed unanimously.

PROPERTY DONATED TO CITY

Economic Development Director Jim Ryan addressed the council regarding a piece of property on Bollinger Boulevard.  This road contains several industrial and light industrial businesses, but there’s a single property that causes the road to become a dead end.  Ryan spoke about an attempt made several years ago by the city’s Economic Development Corporation to purchase that property so the street could be continued and connected to Harwell Road.  While that attempt was not successful at the time, local real estate businessman Gene Thompson recently purchased the property for $26,000 and offered to donate it to the City. “I think this is a very magnanimous gesture on Mr. Thompson’s part, and I think we should say thank you and accept his kind donation,” Ryan said.    Ryan said those wondering why Thompson would donate the property should know that extending Bollinger will raise the values for all the properties in that area, including the ones in the area that Thompson owns.

The donation does come with a few restrictions.  The city will be responsible for the demolition of the house on the property and also agrees to give back the property if they don’t use it to extend Bollinger within the next two years.  Thompson would also require the city add in a driveway entrance to the back of his property at 7727 Harwell, which is located next to the Bollinger property being donated. Council voted to unanimously approve the donation and accept the restrictions that come along with it.

JUDD STREET CROSSING PROJECT

Some basic information was given on a possible project to deal with the portion of Judd Street behind West Elementary that often floods.  Bids for the project were just opened and will be presented to the council at a short meeting on Friday, and Project Manager Jack Bell shared some details on what the project will accomplish.

“Our goal is to raise that roadway,” Bell said, acknowledging that even a short amount of sustained rain can cause it to flood and be closed.  Bell said they will look to do a box culvert style crossing and also raise the elevation of the road as it crosses the creek.  An area for pedestrians to walk across the road and safety barriers are also being looked at for the project.

The timeline for the work was also discussed, with Bell pinpointing a convenient window they could use to cause a lessened impact to the area.

“We’re trying to key this in to coordinate so that we can be finished with it when the kids come back from Christmas break so we’re not so intrusive to the traffic that’s down there,” Bell said.

Council will hear and consider bids on this project on Friday.

OTHER BUSINESS

The White Settlement Fire Department was recognized for receiving a report of “no discrepancies” from a recent audit by the Commission on Fire Protection.  Fire Chief Brian Thompson said much of the credit belongs to the firefighters who serve at the station.

Council member Mike Arnold gave a personal thank you to the firefighters for assistance they gave him recently.

“I couldn’t ask for a better Fire Department than we have,” Arnold said.

Later in the meeting, council voted unanimously to name the Fire Chief as an Emergency Management Coordinator for the city.  The Mayor serves in this capacity as Emergency Management Director, but with the Fire Chief being more readily available, they chose to appoint him to the position of Emergency Management Coordinator so he can do those duties if the Mayor is not available.

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