Mathews schools chief urges caution on drilling funds
By Jordan Cohen
The Mathews schools superintendent warned that the district’s decision to sign oil-and-gas drilling leases on nearly 90 acres of its property does not mean the schools are about to get a financial windfall.
“There is no guarantee anyone is getting anything yet,” Superintendent Lewis Lowery cautioned board members Tuesday shortly before their unanimous vote to authorize the lease signatures.
The five-year leases with London-based energy giant BP, signed through the Associated Landowners of the Ohio Valley, the landowners representative group, would pay the district $3,900 per acre for between 87 and 90 acres. That would mean Mathews schools could receive as much as $351,000, but Lowery said a major hurdle has to be cleared first.
“All the mineral rights have to be free and clear,” the superintendent said. “If the land is tied up, we’re not getting anything for it.” Lowery said he does not know the status of the mineral rights.
Most of the district’s acreage is located near Baker and Currie elementary schools, along with 14 acres near the high school and the now-closed Neal Middle School.
Terry Woodyard, longtime board member, said that ALOV consistently has warned landowners that all properties have to be free and clear or there will be no drilling and no money. Woodyard said she has signed a lease for seven acres on her property.
Lowery said he expects the search on the Mathews property to be completed “fairly soon.”
The superintendent said that should the search clear the property rights, the district should be receiving payments in October.
Lowery said at least a third of the money would cover the cost of replacing the schools’ septic system, a project ordered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
“I’m hoping we can get it repaired for around $130,000, so we can use the balance of the funds for our other needs,” Lowery added.