Youngstown council again delays seeking drill offers for city land

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By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.comCity council again postponed permitting the administration to seek offers for companies to drill for gas and oil on city-owned land.


City council again postponed permitting the administration to seek offers for companies to drill for gas and oil on city-owned land.

But a majority of its members expect to approve the proposal at the next meeting, Oct. 17.

Councilman Mike Ray, chairman of the public utilities committee, recommended Wednesday a change to the proposal that would still permit the administration to seek offers but not be allowed to enter into a contract without council’s approval.

The administration urged council on Wednesday to reject that provision.

Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, agrees with Ray, D-4th, but the five other members of council sided with the administration.

“There’s no reason to bring stuff [like this proposal] back to council because now you’re negotiating with seven council members,” said Mayor Charles Sammarone.

Also, if council doesn’t like the deal, it can rescind legislation permitting the administration to negotiate, said city Finance Director David Bozanich.

For council to approve legislation by emergency measure, the proposal needs the support of at least six of the seven council members.

Without that, legislation can only be approved after readings at three separate meetings and a simple majority vote.

Without Ray and Drennen, only five members wanted to sign off on the proposal Wednesday as emergency legislation.

Council gave the proposal a second reading Wednesday. The first reading was at its Sept. 19 meeting.

There were about 125 people at council’s Wednesday meeting with about 75 of them there to oppose the drilling legislation.

Sammarone said he wants to use the money from the city leasing its land for oil and gas drilling for residential demolition and neighborhood improvements.

The city has about 1,070 vacant homes that need to come down now and has money for about 300 to 400 demolitions, Sammarone said.

The city has about 4,000 to 5,000 vacant houses overall, he said.

The city has about 300 to 800 acres of land that could be leased for drilling, Bozanich said. Also, the city could receive up to $5,000 an acre plus 20 percent royalties on the drilling, he said.

“I support all economic development, but we need to protect the health and safety of our residents,” Ray said.

Council members have discussed having a public hearing or meeting on the issue for more than two weeks, and haven’t scheduled one yet.

Members on both sides of this issue said Wednesday they want to have that public event before council’s Oct. 17 meeting.

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