Middleton trustees, Chesapeake end road use agreement

NEGLEY – The first road targeted for use by Chesapeake Energy in Columbiana County is no longer needed by the company and Middleton Township Trustees agreed to cancel the contract Monday.

The oil and gas exploration company entered into a road use maintenance agreement with the township in April 2011.

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.

Middleton’s RUMA was the first in the county at that time and allowed Chesapeake use of Carmel Achor East to transport water from local drilling sites into Pennsylvania.

The road is located between state Routes 170 and 154 and the company only recently settled with the township on the cost of improvements it is responsible for as a result of use.

The settlement resulted in the company paying for 82 percent ($59,181) of the cost of improvements to 1.3 miles of road, with the township responsible for the remainder.

Trustees called it a “trial and error” contract since there were no specific guidelines in place then.

“They wanted out of it and we wanted out of it because it no longer follows the guidelines that everyone is using and the (county) prosecutor and engineer prefer,” Trustee Eldena Gearhart explained.

The cancellation of the agreement was initiated by the company and effective Monday following board approval. The township already received the check for $59,181, Gearhart said.

The company can no longer use the road for hauling, although that shouldn’t be a problem since it is now getting water elsewhere, trustees said.

“They have fulfilled their financial obligation. It is now our problem,” Gearhart said of the road.

The road is on schedule to be chip and sealed soon, she added.

Meanwhile, the township still has RUMAs with the company for Scotts Mill and Vale roads.

In other business, trustees said if chip and seal is not put on Echo Dell Road before the colder weather sets in, it may need to wait.

Gearhart said the board is awaiting the county engineer’s recommendation.

Trustees then approved amended rules and regulations for the Mount Zion and Achor Baptist cemeteries.

Under the rules the board is not responsible for any damages to headstones or receptacles unless negligence by a township employee or contractor is proven, and headstones or monuments will be the responsibility of the owner to keep straight and in repair.

The board is also not responsible for damaged flower or grave decorations. Decorations are permitted from April 1 through Oct. 15 and from Nov. 1 through March 15.

Shrubs or trees are not to be planted and lots cannot be bought from the township and sold back, except at the original purchase price. Lots can be transferred to the heirs of the original purchaser.

All digging of graves must be done by an outside contractor, except for burial of cremated remains, which can be done by the township. The township will also locate grave sites.

All burials involving a casket will require a vault and there is a maximum of one vault and three or four urns per gravesite and urns buried in an occupied grave can only have a flat marker.

Gearhart said the township now has all graves marked in Mount Zion Cemetery and they are in the process of working on a master list.

The township began marking the graves after coming across one they believed was unoccupied earlier this year.