Ohio U surveys impact of shale

SALEM – Local government officials in 17 eastern Ohio counties are being asked to take part in an Ohio University survey.

Over 500 Shale Development Community Impact Survey were sent to county commissioners to mayors, city managers and township trustees, asking them to gauge how shale development has affected their community’s economy, housing and property, public safety and environment and infrastructure.

They surveys were sent by regular mail beginning on July 25 with a return envelope and postage, according to Senior Project Manager Sara L. Boyd of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University.

Boyd said they were already getting surveys back and noted all three commissioners in each county were sent surveys.

“We were getting them back within two days,” she said on Thursday.

The survey has been distributed to officials in Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe, Muskingum, Noble, Portage, Stark, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Washington counties.

The project is a continuation of previous research by the Voinovich School.

A letter included with the survey said, “The development of shale deposits in Ohio has been touted as an economic windfall by some and decried as an environmental dilemma by others.

“This survey is critical to developing a baseline understanding of how shale development is affecting communities in eastern Ohio,” said Boyd.

“It should provide state and local government, businesses and community organizations with valuable information for future planning.”

Boyd said, “We expect this survey to be the initial phase of an ongoing study tracking the impacts of shale development on local communities in Ohio.

“We plan to widely distribute the findings from this survey by the end of 2013”

The Voinovich School thought it was important and wanted to do something more qualitative, Boyd said, adding it will help identify where the biggest financial impacts occur.

“The point is to try and help local governments when they try to address local policy issues, to provide information useful for their purposes,” she said, pointing to the impact a tight housing market could have on lower-income people.

Boyd and the project team hopes to reissue the survey annually to track the impact of shale development on communities over time.

The survey is broken down into four major sections including community and public safety; the impact on the local economy; housing and property; and environment and infrastructure.

It asks respondents to gauge the impact on a six-point scale that runs from significant increase to moderate increase, to no change, to moderate decrease to significant decrease to don’t know.

For example, under community and public service, it categorizes population, school enrollment, emergency services activities, traffic volumes, alcohol-related offense, drug related offenses, assaults, property thefts and prostitution and asks officials to fill in a blank circle under one of the six points from “significant increase” to “don’t know.”

Under local economy and environment and infrastructure officials are asked to respond to 11 questions in each category.

The local economy section has four questions that considers lodging in some aspect including “workforce migration in the area … hotel occupancy … hotel construction … and tourism.”

It also asks about employment of area residents, restaurant activity, other retail activity and development of businesses that serve the shale industry.

There is an eight-question section devoted to housing and property that includes housing rental costs, use of campgrounds and other temporary housing sites and trailer or mobile home park use and development.

It also asks if shale development has added to the workload of local government offices and employees and if road use maintenance agreements (RUMAs) have been signed in the areas where officials serve.

It also asks for a general assessment regarding the overall impact to date ranging from “very positive to somewhat positive or negative to very negative to no change and to don’t know.”

Boyd said the survey was sent to the government officials who are in the mix as the ones “who could address most of the issues in the survey.”

“… They are particularly well-qualified to describe the impact shale development is having” on their communities, she said.