FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP - Thirty years with the Ohio Department of Transportation - 10 on heavy equipment and 20 in management -makes Fairfield Township Trustee Barry Miner perfectly suited to oversee the barrage of road use management agreements (RUMAs) accompanying the shale boom.
Elected to the board in 2010, his timing is pretty good too.
Whether it's the fact his father was a highway patrolman for 30 years or his three decades with the state, Miner has a passion, dedication and, in this shale-booming case, the skill set and experience to deal with road issues.
Fairfield Township Trustee Barry Miner has a certain feel for the road use management agreement procedures needed between local governments and gas and oil companies on access roads to well sites. The township recently approved its fourth RUMA and is looking at two more. Miner, who is retired from the Ohio Department of Transportation after 30 years, has some ideas on how to streamline the process. He is pictured on Beeson Mill Road at the entrance to the NOMAC Drilling Rig 310, also known as Mellinger 7-12-2. NOMAC is a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy. The flatbed truck was delivering supplies to the drill pad that is scheduled to had six drill holes. (Salem News photo by Larry Shields)
And another thing not in the calculus.
"I love being a trustee," he said.
One aspect of local government involvement is strongly tied to a detailed process aimed at making sure secondary roads are capable of handling high-tonnage truck traffic back and forth from wells and maintaining them.
RUMAs are the mechanism for that and they're popping up everywhere ... just like the well sites. The acronym has become part of the lingo in shale boom territory.
They are basically long-term agreements between government entities and drilling companies that place the responsibility for access-road maintenance with the oil and gas companies.
Miner said, "This is going to impact this area for years to come."
Fairfield Township is looking at its sixth oil and gas well right now and just approved its fourth RUMA on Thursday.
Continued exploration means oil and gas company representatives all over the shale play have to obtain core samples, survey and scope out roads that will service wells. Once they are satisfied they contact city, village and township officials to coordinate an agreement via RUMAs.
"It's a process, a learning process," Miner said. He noted the tiny finesses, nuances and surface changes that have to be accounted for along with the added complications of merging those fortifications with routine chip and seal work on the same roads.
Fairfield Township has been in the process and several lessons have been learned from problems on Miller and Beeson Mills roads.
The 12-inch stone build up produced a rough surface. Dust caused the roads to become "slimey" when it rained which hurt the roadability while forcing motorist to almost a crawl. It also caused trustees to take another look at the process and led to a decision not accept anything less than chip and seal in the township.
An agreement was reached with Chesapeake Energy through the Civil Engineers of Southwest Ohio (CESO) to allow the township to redo the roads and Chesapeake would reimburse it for the cost.
There was another issue from the outset Miner said, explaining it was with CESO.
"The concern I had with CESO was why can't we get an asphalt road," Miner asked.
"They said they weren't doing asphalt roads and that wasn't true. It was solely on CESO ... that's the only time we were dissatisfied ... we weren't told the truth," he said adding the latest RUMA on (Crestview Road) will have 4.5 inches of asphalt on it.
That issue is in the past and Miner said Chesapeake has been very good to work with and now seems to "understands there are road issues."
Fairfield isn't the only township.
Salem Township is in discussions regarding a well-site on Salem-Grange Road. It's on a steeply-graded hill and trustees there are concerned about the difficulty large trucks will have maneuvering back and forth to the well site.
And Fairfield Township has another "finesse and nuance" on a portion of Crestview Road where a well is planned.
"To Chesapeake's credit," Miner explained, "... I scoped that road ... and there is a 60-inch concrete (culvert) pipe at least 42-years-old that they're going to split the cost with the township for replacement.
"Sixty inches is fairly large, that's where Chesapeake has been tremendous and I think all the townships need to look at existing conditions versus the impacted areas ... using the 60-inch pipe here is an example of that."
He elaborated even further.
"This is a direct situation. We called it to their attention and they agreed to split the costs. We called them and three days later they called back. The contractor is working on it right now."
The years at ODOT color his thinking and issues that might be hard for others to see come to sharp focus in his mind. He offered the suggestion "that Chesapeake could improve its scoping process."
Chesapeake's field reps checking the roads don't have the expertise that the owners of the roads have, he said "and the RUMA process starts with the roads."
"The more input they can get up front from the owners, road personnel or elected officials would help streamline the RUMA process," Miner said, "and eliminate all the back and forth. In my experience, the scoping process is critical to a successful (overall) process."
In general, it takes about two months from drilling the first road core samples to completion of the RUMA.
Miner suggests that after the core samples are taken the road structures should be evaluated by "physically walking the roads and looking at it with all the parties involved ... I'm not going to sign anything without looking at it," he said, adding that he went out one Sunday for four hours walking a road.
"That's my job," he said.
The solution, Miner said, lies in guidelines that should be set in a handbook covering the RUMA basics, that would apply anywhere.
"That's the missing link," he said. "Given my experience I going to speak with people in Columbus to standardize this process. I've given this a lot of thought ... about where it needs to change ... just a standardized process."
He has talked to former state Sen. Jason Wilson who heads the Office of Appalachia, a job creation and development agency.
A RUMA manual or handbook sounds like a good idea considering Washingtonville council was advised by one group in July that oil and gas companies want every square inch in Mahoning and Columbiana counties under lease.