Village council voted Wednesday to form an ad hoc committee to advise council about oil and natural-gas drilling and voted against entering an agreement with a local company that wanted to negotiate with drilling companies on the village’s behalf.
Council stated that the mayor will appoint committee members and they should have experience in various fields, such as environmental science and law, that relate to drilling.
“The committee can provide guideposts for council, and you can appoint people who have the background that we need,” said Martha Morgan, a village resident who supported the committee’s formation.
Mayor Tim Sicafuse said anyone who is interested in being on the committee should call 330-757-2112 or stop by village hall at 308 S. Main St.
Jaime Garayua and Atty. Damian P. DeGenova of Youngstown-based Sulmona Energy LLC brought an agreement to council Wednesday that would permit Sulmona to negotiate leases for about 300 acres of village-owned property, the majority of which is in Poland Municipal Forest, to drilling companies.
The drilling companies are interested in hydrofracking, or fracking, a process in which a mix of water, sand and chemicals is blasted into rocks thousands of feet below ground to extract natural gas and oil.
The agreement would have allowed Sulmona to negotiate leases and bring the results back to council. It stipulated that Sulmona would represent the village for three months after the first lease offer was presented.
Sulmona would be paid only if council decided to sign a lease, and the company would receive about 1 percent of the signing and royalty fees, DeGenova said.
Council split the vote 3-3, with supporters saying they wanted to have examples of the fees and opponents saying the decision was premature. The mayor cast the deciding “no” vote on the motion. It was the first time Sicafuse has had to break a tie during his time in office.
The agreement was called premature because council is waiting on a legal opinion as to whether it has the authority to lease the mineral rights of the 265-acre forest, based on the original forest deed, which calls for it to be kept in a natural state and used for park purposes.
Councilman Robert Limmer said Atty. Alan Wenger of Harrington, Hoppe, & Mitchell should have an answer at the next council meeting on March 20. Council is paying Wenger and one of his associates $240 per hour and $140 per hour, respectively.