Second Poland cemetery approached about drilling leases
By Ashley Luthern
Two drilling com- panies have approached another Poland cemetery, this time in the village, about leasing mineral rights.
The Poland Cemetery Association is having its attorney review two contracts from oil and natural-gas drilling companies interested in Riverside Cemetery, said Ted Heineman, association secretary.
The association was formed in 1864 and is a private, nonprofit organization that maintains operations at the cemetery using funds from the sale of cemetery lots, Heineman said. He estimated it costs between $100,000 to $150,000 to maintain the grounds each year.
If the board were to consider a lease agreement, it would have to prohibit pipelines and drilling in the cemetery and have no construction in the area, Heineman said.
The companies are interested in drilling fracking wells, used in a process that blasts water, sand and chemicals into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to extract natural gas and oil. The horizontal drilling could extend under the cemetery.
The association is run by a board of directors who meet on an as-needed basis and would have the final say on any contracts, Heineman said.
“I have no problem with the drilling, and I’m surprised at the amount of money being offered for different leases. I think it’s too good to be true,” he said, declining to give specific monetary amounts.
Riverside Cemetery is near the intersection of U.S. Route 224 and Riverside Drive in Poland Village. Last month, trustees in Poland Township also were contacted about leasing a cemetery.
Campbell Development LLC, a Texas-based company, presented trustees with a contract relating to the 35-acre Lowellville Cemetery on Stewart Road. The contract offers the township an upfront payment of $140,000 — or $4,000 per acre — and 16 percent of any royalties, which would be paid monthly.
But the township’s legal counsel, David Shepherd, said “there are a lot of hoops” for leasing a government-run cemetery.
“It would be very difficult for us to do this. Even if in fact the trustees were able to do it and everything came together, the money itself would have to be used on acquisition of additional cemetery lands or cemetery improvements,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd said he researched the matter at the trustees’ request and found an Ohio attorney general opinion from 1964 that detailed those stipulations.
The Lowellville Cemetery was established in 1890 and is the township’s current cemetery.
The local entity that owns the most acres of cemeteries is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown. The diocese owns four cemeteries: Calvary Cemetery on Youngstown’s West Side, Resurrection Cemetery in Austintown, All Souls Cemetery in Cortland and Calvary Cemetery in Massillon.
“We have not signed any agreements to lease cemetery property,” said Patrick Kelly, the diocese’s chief financial officer.
Some parishes have their own cemeteries, and they can make decisions about leasing using their discretion, he said.