One thing is for sure. This area is not used to being in the driver’s seat. It is not used to sitting on top of a valuable national resource. It appears that Columbiana County will be the first to have its ground turned into a complex chunk of Swiss cheese. Trumbull County will soon be the next target. Without a doubt, the money that land owners will receive for their mineral rights and ongoing royalties is a definite plus. The plethora of ancillary jobs created by the supply chain to the oil and natural gas industry is also very fitting with respect to the manufacturing history of the valley. All these jobs, jobs, jobs, mean income taxes, income taxes, income taxes. Some of these taxes will go directly to municipalities in the area, but for jobs in the townships, it means a tax boon for the state of Ohio via the state income tax. Recently our state has announced major cuts to its local government fund as a part of balancing its budget. Governor Kasich was recently quoted in an interview by WFMJ news as saying "we're going to have problems". As a guest speaker at this year’s annual Regional Chamber Luncheon, Mark Kvamma, President of Jobs Ohio, used a quote from Steve Jobs pertaining to all of us. He said we need to dare to “think different”.
Ok Mr. JobsOhio and Governor Kasich. This writer is going to dare to think differently. I am going to review some of the Trumbull County infrastructure projects that previously we would have never had the audacity to demand your help with. If we, as a region, are willing to take risks with our environment in order to help fill the state coffers, here are some of the things you might be able to help us with and why I think they relate to the oil and natural gas industry.
1. The Girard Lower Lake Dam repair. The city of Salem has recently made a deal to sell bulk water to the industry to be used in the fracking process. This will suffice for wells in Columbiana County. The need for bulk water is at a premium For a cool 6 million dollars in Army Corp matching funds to repair the lower lake dam, this industry can get one half million gallons of water a day from these lakes without putting any additional stress on our existing water supplies. This would provide a business purpose for solving an “oldy but goodie” problem in Trumbull county. Also, as Trumbull County enters into the shale play, this lake is very close to the action and will reduce transportation costs of the water to northern portions of the county via State Route 11, which sits right next to the lakes. In addition to all these benefits, history shows that the Girard Lakes were built as a gravity fed source of bulk water to the Mahoning river valley’s steel industry. As we see, this industry is experiencing resurgence. It would be a wise investment to fix this dam and repair the two water lines that feed water into the valley as an alternative source of water in the case of an emergency at Meander Water.
2. Sewers. For many years, Trumbull County has been attempting to provide sewer upgrades and water lines to areas south of state route 305 and north of the populated areas in the southern portion of the county. The problem is that many private water wells are being majorly polluted by failing septic systems which were allowed to be built without near enough buffering land between them. In short, we have people in these areas drinking the waste of their neighbors. Sorry to be so graphic, but I need you to understand the importance of this issue. According the Trumbull County Board of Health, several townships have been categorized into financially viable target areas for sewer system extension. Thus Champion, Kinsman, Weathersfield, and Hubbard Townships are prime candidates based on the population density these new sewer lines would serve. There are other areas north of State Route 305 that need septic upgrades in the county, but the townships mentioned share enough population density to both exacerbate the waste proliferation problem and have properties close enough to make a common sewer system feasible. It was recently estimated that a cool 50 million dollars could solve this epidemic in these areas. The reason this subject is tangentially related to the oil and natural gas industry is that if these properties have county water and sewer service, there will be less of an epidemic should any water table pollution occur in these populated areas.
3. Road Resurfacing. Given that our roads will be utilized to transport fracking water and commodities for the supply chain, we could use some donations of some of oil to whip up some additional tar to pave roads such as State Route 304 in Girard. State Route 422, at the intersection of Interstate 80, Federal Street coming into downtown Youngstown from 422, and probably in a number of places that readers of this blog can fill in the gaps on (no pun intended) also are in need of repair. In western Mahoning County, township trustees made arrangement for roads to be improved prior to the commencement of drilling. This is a good start, but it should be incumbent upon the state to contribute additional ODOT dollars to both repair and enhance existing roads in this area of the state.
Admittedly, some of the infrastructure requests made are skewed towards Trumbull County. This is because this is the county that I am most familiar with. I am hoping that some of the readers of this blog will be able to add some issues that they feel the state can be of assistance in solving now that we are thinking differently as a major financial player in the state’s economy.