Drilling inspectors needed: Ohio looks to hire as shale play spreads to more counties

By Alison Grant, The Plain Dealer

Ohio_frackingOhio expects to triple the number of its oil and gas field inspectors, as horizontal drilling and fracking of shale formations intensifies and moves west across the state.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources wants to have 90 inspectors in the field by early next year, up from more than 30 today, spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans said.

State regulators are scrambling to keep up with Ohio’s latest energy push. They inspected 18 percent of the state’s 64,481 operating wells in 2011, leaving more than 50,000 wells unchecked.

“It’s almost a daunting task, but you gotta do the best you can,” said Gene Chini, district supervisor of the north region of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management.

Ohio has inspected a smaller share of its wells since 2009 than its neighbor in the shale boom, Pennsylvania. Ohio’s inspections also lagged those in three other big oil- and gas-producing states — Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma, though funding shortfalls in Oklahoma have cut inspection rates almost in half in recent years.

By Kari Matsko’s reckoning, hundreds of thousands of Ohio oil and gas wells go without annual inspections. Matsko, director of the People’s Oil and Gas Collaborative, a Lake County grassroots group, said the state has more than 275,000 wells when adding in those that are plugged or abandoned.

Some of them pose contamination danger, she said, pointing to a finding by federal investigators that natural gas in two residential water wells in Medina could have migrated from an abandoned gas well.

“Wells require a lifetime of care and feeding,” said Matsko. “They never go away.”

But others contend the focus most keenly belongs on wells under construction. Meanwhile, many existing wells are scant producers.

“Keep in mind that many of the 64,000 wells are classified as marginal wells that may produce less than 10 barrels of oil a year,” said Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, which does public outreach for the industry. “If you took those out of there, I think you would look at a very high rate of visits (inspections) for those that are producing significant volume.”

James Zehringer, ODNR director, said the agency has begun hiring and training additional inspectors to insure that shale wells are correctly built and inspected.

Natural gas and oil reserves in Ohio’s Utica shale formations have attracted a rush of major companies leasing rights to drill horizontal wells and then fracture, or “frack,” the rock to release the gas and oil. Sixteen horizontal wells have been drilled and completed; nine so far are in production.

Zehringer said money from permit fees for shale exploration and drilling will pay for new workers to help not only with inspections but also enforcement and administrative work.

“A strong regulatory staff at ODNR will enable inspectors to be present at every critical stage of well construction, insuring these sophisticated structures are built in a manner that protects both people and the ecosystem,” Zehringer said in a statement late Tuesday.

Chini, based in Uniontown in Summit County, said inspectors monitor new wells at critical points in their construction. They’re on site when the “conductor pipe” is installed in glacial drift or other loose surface material to keep gravelly layers from washing away and destabilizing the drilling rig.

They police installation of the “surface casing” that is cemented in place and protects groundwater. When available, they also monitor installation of the “production casing” that carries oil and gas out of the ground. And they monitor “frack jobs,” when water under intense pressure is forced into well bores to fracture the shale.

If there is a violation, they continue to visit a well until it’s corrected, Hetzel-Evans said.

Inspectors also check wells when they close and the well site is graded and reseeded.

The shale push has also turned a spotlight on some of Ohio’s old wells.

Landowners are asking inspectors to check wells that may have lapsed out of production. Property owners hope that happens because then they might be freed from old leases and able to negotiate new contracts that pay more per acre and have fatter production royalties.

“With the advent of this shale gas, the Utica play, we’re getting a lot of calls,” Chini said.

Vote on Lake Township police levy continues to divide community

By Nancy Molnar
Special to the Beacon Journal

greentown BarberLAKE TWP.: Imagine walking into the voting booth and facing this option: You can vote for a service and still lower your taxes.

That’s what some Uniontown police district residents did Nov. 8, when they voted to expand their Uniontown Police Department and its tax base to the remainder of Lake Township, including the area’s other unincorporated community of Greentown.

The 4.5-mill permanent tax replaced 6.7 mills. It passed in 10 of the 11 precincts in the former Uniontown police district.

It failed in all 11 precincts in the remainder of the township.

“I would certainly, if I was in Uniontown, I would vote for it,” said Charles Heisroth of Spur Circle. “I don’t think I’ve ever voted to lower my tax.

“So why wouldn’t they vote for the police levy? I don’t think that’s very fair.”

Heisroth estimated his taxes will rise by $160 to $200 a year.

“But I’ll still be paying for the sheriff of the county and I’ll be paying for the Uniontown Police Department,” said Heisroth, 73, who has lived in the township for 46 years.

The status of the tax is in the hands of the Ohio Supreme Court, following a ruling from Stark County Common Pleas Judge John Haas that invalidated the election result on the basis of a ballot error. The mistake understated the cost of the tax by a factor of 10.

Last month, Haas continued an order allowing the Lake Township Police Department to patrol the entire township until a status and appeal hearing April 9.

Among those supporting the expansion of the Uniontown police district to the rest of the township was Howard R. Miller Jr., whose HRM Enterprises Inc. owns the Hartville MarketPlace shops and flea market, Hartville Kitchen restaurant and Hartville Hardware store.

Miller was the largest contributor to Citizens for Lake Township Police, the campaign committee that supported expanding the Uniontown Police Department to township-wide coverage. He gave $7,500.

That amount raises questions for Michael Grady, a Republican candidate for county prosecutor and one of three attorneys working to have the court invalidate the police levy’s passage based on the ballot error.

“You seldom would see anybody dishing that kind of money into an issue,” Grady said. “Was this about public safety, or was this about return on investment?”

Miller said he did know how much of a difference the expansion of the Uniontown Police District would make in his taxes.

“We are pleased with the Uniontown police service that we have received and they were in favor of this, so we wanted to support them,” Miller said in an email.

Miller’s businesses, along West Maple Street (state Route 619), are equal parts tourist attraction and staples of local life.

His new hardware store, being built by township Trustee Ellis Erb, will be a 245,000-square-foot, two-story building west of its current location.

Stark County Building Department records show an estimated construction cost of $13.3 million. If that building is taxed for police services at the new Lake Township rate of 4.5 mills, it would cost $10,532 less annually than if it is taxed at the 6.7-mill rate of the old Uniontown police district, which covered only 9 square miles in the northwest section of the township that borders southern Summit County.

The difference in taxes represents 2.6 percent of Miller’s total property tax bill of $404,992 for this year, an increase from last year’s $401,106.

Aside from Miller, most other police levy campaign contributors were township officials. Giving $1,000 each were Erb’s construction business, Trustee Galen Stoll and the businesses of Trustee John Arnold and township Fiscal Officer Ben Sommers.

Erb said the need for police to address crime throughout the township caused him to support the issue, even though it increased his property taxes because most of his holdings are outside Uniontown.

He said emergency medical services were among the leading proponents of a township-wide police service.

“It makes their job safer,” Erb said. “They get a suicide, or they get a young kid that’s high on drugs and he’s got a gun.

“What is a poor mother supposed to do? And this happens. I mean, this is not just one incident.”

Resident annoyed

To Russell “Rusty” McCoy, a barber in Greentown, the Uniontown Police Department, with its Special Response Team and Humvees, is more than the area needs.

“Greentown is a lot like Mayberry,” he said. “It really is. You just don’t go into Mayberry and tell Andy and Barney that, ‘Oh, by the way, you need all this extra protection,’ when all they’re doing is catching a few chicken thieves.”

He is irked that township officials are pressing to have the new police tax validated in court despite the ballot error.

“It just seems like it is taxation with misrepresentation,” said McCoy, 50, a U.S. Navy veteran who also works as a parking-garage assistant manager.

Like some others in Greentown, he would have preferred township trustees consider hiring the Stark County Sheriff’s Office for extra patrols.

Neighboring Plain Township has a 2.25-mill property tax for that purpose.

“The fact is they wouldn’t even entertain speaking to the sheriff’s department,” said Grady, the attorney who is working pro bono for citizens opposing the levy. “That’s what I found somewhat disturbing, particularly after this issue had been voted on twice before.”

Similar issues to the one now being contested failed in 2005 and 1998.

Trustee supports issue

Erb said the area has not had good service from the sheriff.

The office of Sheriff Timothy Swanson was at a low point in 2011, when the Lake police levy appeared on the ballot, due to a shortage of county funding. He since has rehired staff due to the passage of a sales tax in the same Nov. 8 election.

Erb said deputies would waste time driving to and from their headquarters in Canton. Further, the sheriff’s offer to provide enhanced service for $1.85 million a year did not include cruisers. He said he would prefer to stick with the plan for a township police service supported by $2.59 million from the levy.

“If we get turned down by the Supreme Court, well, so be it. We’ll put it on the fall ballot again,” Erb said. “If you stop and think, the majority of the people voted for it.”

Nancy Molnar can be emailed at nancymolnar2002@yahoo.com.

Local Books: Haunted Akron and Amish Mystery

Fall From Pride“It’s not all quilts and pies” for Sarah Kauffman, a young Amish woman in Home Valley in fictional Eden County, south of Cleveland. In prolific Columbus author Karen Harper’s Fall from Pride, first in a trilogy, Sarah is somewhat embarrassed at being unmarried at 24, and has never been interested in quilting or baking.

What does interest her is painting, and she has received permission from her bishop to paint large, bright quilt-square patterns on barn sides in Home Valley, hoping to encourage tourists to stop and buy produce and crafts. It seems the bad economy has hit the Amish as well.

When one of the barns with Sarah’s paintings burns down, a state arson investigator comes to see if the fire was deliberately set. Sarah had been the first to see the fire, so he interviews her, and the mutual attraction is so immediate it’s a wonder the pages don’t burst into flame, too.

Sarah is worried that someone burned the barn to denounce the painted quilt patterns for causing her the sin of pride. When another barn with her work is burned, Nate, the inspector, must consider this possibility. Harper sets up the mystery with plenty of suspects.

Fall from Pride (343 pages, softcover) costs $14.95 from Mira, a division of Harlequin. The next book in the series, Return to Grace, will be published in March.

‘Haunted Akron’

There have been many reports that the Civic Theatre is haunted, but what about the Perkins Stone Mansion, home of the Summit County Historical Society? Some people believe Grace Perkins, widow of the son of Akron’s founder, still hangs around there (Grace didn’t like a previous director of the society, but the current one seems to be satisfactory).

Author Jeri Holland should know: She’s created historical websites for Akron, Summit County and Cuyahoga Falls, and her book Haunted Akron is a tour of events, places and creepy legends. Holland recounts several tragic deaths, whether by murder, suicide or horrific accident; as the director of a group called Cuyahoga Valley Paranormal, she visits some sites hoping to find spirits and record their voices.

The history ranges from colonial, with Mary Campbell’s Cave, to the 20th century, recalling the scandalous murder of a matron at the Summit County Juvenile Home.

Haunted Akron (124 pages, softcover) costs $19.99 from the History Press.

Uniontown teen drops off prescription bottle for refill with marijuana inside

By: Mike Waterhouse, newsnet5.com

COVENTRY TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Deputies in Summit County said a teenager made the mistake of dropping off a prescription bottle to a drug store for a refill with marijuana inside.

It happened at the Rite Aid store in Coventry Township on Thursday.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office said a 17-year-old from Uniontown dropped off the bottle at about 2 p.m. and the pharmacy suspected there was marijuana in it, so they called the police.

Deputies at the scene confirmed it was marijuana and charged the teen with possession of marijuana.

Springfield trustees passed a motion to authorize Summit County Action

Springfield TWP, Ohio —

Trustees passed a motion to authorize the Summit County engineer, as the township engineer, to perform engineering duties and find funding for the Tritts Mill Pond Dam, which would meet the compliance and time lines of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) notice of violation.

Trustee Dean Young said during the Sept. 8 meeting the township received a notice of violation from ODNR pertaining to repairs needed on the dam. The engineering staff inspected the dam Aug. 12 after the lake drain had been opened part way to help alleviate flooding upstream during heavy rains. The ODNR report stated that the dam was in very poor condition and is being operated and maintained in violation of state dam safety laws.

Trustees approved a motion Aug. 11 stating the dam lake drain to be open with the intention to allow more overflow room during heavy rains. Richard Kaylor, road superintendent, opened the drain Aug. 12.  Kaylor said on July 17 6.25- inches of rain fell in a two hour time period, which caused flooding to several businesses up stream.

ODNR engineers observed conditions including insufficient spillway capacity to safely pass 25 percent of the probable maximum flood, spillway system is severely undermined and deteriorated with severe erosion on the downstream slope and no emergency action plan or operations, maintenance and inspection manual. They required remediation to bring the dam into full compliance with Ohio’s dam safety laws.

Some residents living along the now dry, muddy area known as Tritts Mill Pond would like to see it refilled.  The first step slated in making the repairs is to investigate funding, which is what the trustees are doing by passing the motion to authorize the county engineer to perform the engineering duties and seek funding.

Resident Howard Hartley asked the trustees what residents should expect at the Tritts Mill Pond.

Kaylor said they do not have answers themselves at this point.

Trustee Bruce Killian said for now it is being left open for temporary relief on the dam.

Young said it’s the intent of trustees to hold a meeting with county officials. Interested property owners could sit in on the meeting.

The board directed Police Chief John Smith to formulate a plan to increase enforcement of rules of safety on Springfield Lake and report the same to the trustees by Dec. 1.

The report would include recommendations for any action required by the trustees.

Residents attending the Aug. 11 meeting ask for increased patrol due to the potential for accidents as boaters were not following the posted rules.

Resident Lloyd McVey thanked the board and Smith for their attention to the issues.

Other business included:

  • Approved a purchase order for $57,053.53 for the Township’s share of the Summit County Engineer’s Pavement Maintenance Program for 2011. As a part of this program the township was able to save time and costs.
  • Expenditure out of the Parks budget is not to exceed $10,000, one half will be reimbursed by a grant from the Ohio Erie Canalway Coalition, for examination of title, survey or environmental assessment of areas for development of potential hike and bike trails. Results of the title examination would be provided to the Board before proceeding.
  • Authorization to pay the townships fair share, $1,500 to Metro SWAT for the purchase of an armored vehicle. Lakemore will pay $500 for their share and Springfield $1,000.
  • Approval of repair costs for dump truck in the amount of $1,428.83.

Elderly Summit County man dies from West Nile Virus

SUMMIT COUNTY (WOIO)

Summit County Health Commissioner Gene Nixon announced that two confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus Encephalitis have recently been reported to Summit County Public Health.

These are the first confirmed human cases of WNV in Summit County since 2002. Unfortunately, a 78-year old resident of New Franklin expired on September 13, 2011. Our sincere sympathies are extended to his family and friends. The second confirmed human case involves a 47-year old resident of Akron who remains hospitalized.

 

 

 

 

Due to this year’s flooding and frequent rains, Summit County Public Health has identified WNV-infected mosquitoes in 20 Summit County communities. The Health District has increased surveillance and mosquito treatment activities to address this year’s unusual abundance of mosquitoes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 20 percent of people who become infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever. Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. While the illness can be as short as a few days, even healthy people have reported being sick for several weeks.

The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 150 persons infected with WNV will develop a more severe form of disease such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis: Severe symptoms include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. Serious illness can occur in people of any age, however people over age 50 and some immune-compromised persons (for example, transplant patients) are at the highest risk for getting severely ill when infected with WNV.

Summit County Public Health encourages the help of residents in preventing illness. Individuals can protect themselves and loved ones from West Nile by taking simple preventive steps such as using insect repellent and eliminating containers that can collect water from your property.

To avoid possible infection from mosquito bites:

  • Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks when outdoors between dawn and dusk since mosquitoes are most active at this time.
  • Light colors are least attractive to mosquitoes. Use insect repellent and follow the label directions.
  • To eliminate mosquito breeding sites near your home:
  • Remove all discarded tires and other water]holding containers, such as tin cans and unused flower pots, from your property.
  • Eliminate standing water from your property.
  • Make sure all roof gutters are clean and properly draining. Clean and chlorinate pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Keep them empty when not in use and drain water from pool covers.
  • Change water in bird baths weekly.

Summit County Public Health staff will continue to monitor mosquitoes until the first freeze. Summit County Public Health will continue to work with area physicians and hospitals to quickly identify human cases and determine potential sources of exposure and provide information, education and referral as needed.

For further information, please contact the Environmental Health Division at Summit County Public Health at 330 926-5600 or visit the SCPH web site at www.schd.org

Lake surpasses Perry as Stark’s third-largest township

By Kelli Young CantonRep.com staff writer

An influx of baby boomers has catapulted Lake Township to Stark County’s third most populous township, new census figures show.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday will release figures that gives midsize cities and towns their first statistical portrait since 2000. The numbers are based on three years worth of data — from 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Today’s release shows the population shifts for Alliance, Canton, Jackson Township, Lake Township, Massillon, Perry Township and Plain Township. Figures for smaller Stark County towns likely will be released in 2010, according to census officials.

LIVING IN LAKE
Among Stark County’s most populated townships, Lake Township saw the largest percent increase in population.

Between 2000 and 2007, the rural township that borders Summit County has added more than 1,200 people — a 13.4 percent increase.

The influx propelled Lake’s population to 29,361 and past Perry Township’s declining population of 27,922. The census figures include incorporated municipalities within the townships, such as Hartville. (Information has been corrected to fix an error. See correction at end of story. 12:01 p.m., 12/9/08)

With North Canton included in the tally, Lake still trails Plain Township’s 52,546 residents (which includes North Canton) and Jackson Township’s 37,744 residents, which includes Hills and Dales. Both townships also saw smaller gains in population during the same seven-year span.

Most of the Lake’s newcomers are aged 60 or older and likely were attracted to the township’s multiplying senior-housing communities, says Lake Township Trustee Ellis Erb.

“The seniors have stayed in the community instead of moving out because of the condos that have been put up here,” said Erb, who rattled off the names of a dozen senior-housing allotments built recently in the township.

And more units are being built on Mount Pleasant Street NW, Erb said.

He believes Lake Local Schools’ distinguished reputation and Stark County’s low cost of living also have attracted new residents.

BUCKING THE TREND
At least one Stark County city has defied the dying city label.

Massillon’s population increased from 31,325 to 32,289 between 2000 and 2007, figures show.

Massillon Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli credits the city’s emphasis on increasing the number of annual housing starts and its aggressive annexation philosophy.

“We try to get about a hundred housing units per year,” Cicchinelli said. “That includes single family, condominiums, duplex units and apartments. And that’s what we had averaged for the last 10 years.”

He said many newer housing developments exist in the Perry Local and Tuslaw school districts. Other new units have been scattered throughout the city, including in established neighborhoods.

“We try to have a housing stock that represents all income levels,” the mayor said. “We like our diversity.”

Annexations of undeveloped land also have helped with continual growth of housing developments, Cicchinelli said.

“We found that in most cases (that) if it’s a vacant lot, that as soon as water and sewer (services) are available, it gets filled in pretty easily,” Cicchinelli said.

CORRECTION: The census figures include incorporated municipalities within the townships. This information was not included in the orginal story, which was published at 9:57 p.m. Dec. 8.