EAST PALESTINE - What to do with revenue from a potential oil and gas lease for village-owned property was debated among council members this week.
Councilman Don Elzer asked if money from park and cemetery land had to be allocated to those funds or diverted elsewhere to cover costs.
Councilman Fran Figley suggested in March any revenue from a lease should be allocated to the respective funds.
The village owns a little more than 135 acres of park land and 32 acres of cemetery land. It is up to council to decide how many acres will be leased.
Municipal Attorney Shirley Smith has been in discussions with Chesapeake Energy, Hillcorp Energy and BP Royal Dutch Shell.
She said she is attempting to negotiate for 640 acres of land and that a non-drill clause for park and cemetery land be included in a potential lease.
Elzer said if a lease is signed and revenues from that lease are higher than anticipated for the land, perhaps a portion of the money could be used elsewhere.
He explained that if revenue from park land was at $1 million, a majority of the money would go toward the park and then a portion set aside for other needs.
"I don't know if, legitimately, we can take it away from the park," Councilman Sunny Hull said.
The discussion was prompted by an ordinance before council for a third reading, which, if approved, would allow for the allocation of all revenues from a lease.
Finance Director and Interim Village Manager Traci Thompson said the money could not be diverted after being allocated.
Elzer then asked Smith if the village would reap more in royalty payments than the upfront signing bonus.
She said there is "no way of knowing," and added there is even the possibility of no royalty payments at all since royalties are only paid out if oil and gas is recovered from leased land.
Councilman Fran Figley wanted to know how much money the village could reap from a potential lease, but Smith did not wish to disclose any figures since she is still negotiating with the companies.
Figley has asked for a dollar amount on several occasions and believes the village missed its window of opportunity for a lucrative lease offer.
"I would like to see the numbers. It's been way too long now Shirley. We've been talking about this since the first of the year. The money is going down," he said.
He then accused Smith of disclosing the figures to "privileged people," but did not say who those people were.
"I can tell you I haven't disclosed it to anyone," Smith said.
Elzer suggested council table the ordinance until they know how much money a lease would generate.
Smith said council should vote to table if they have any reservations about financial allocation.
"You're not slowing down the process by not approving this," she said.
The ordinance could later be approved as an emergency measure.
The legislation was tabled by a 4-2 vote, with Figley and Councilman and Finance Committee member Jim Tyger opposed.
Figley said he opposed tabling because he doesn't believe knowing the estimated amount matters regarding the allocation.
In other business, council approved an ordinance approving the plan of action and progress schedule for the construction of a new reservoir along Wheathill Road.