LISBON - The Lisbon Cemetery Board wants in on the gas-leasing action, which will mean extra money for the village when it gets around to signing a lease.
Village Councilman Joe Morenz reported at last week's meeting that Barry James of the Lisbon Cemetery Board told him they changed their mind and would now like its 30-some acres added to the list of village property that would be leased to Chesapeake Energy Inc.
The cemetery is owned and operated by the village, and the board originally balked at the idea, but Morenz said there would be no drilling in the cemetery anyway, for obvious reasons. If this were to occur, any horizontal drilling would occur under the cemetery up to depths of more than a mile.
Council has been debating whether to lease village land for gas drilling since January 2011 and finally authorized Village Solicitor Virginia Barborak to negotiate a lease with Chesapeake. The lease was to include 57 acres encompassing Willow Grove Park and the old stone quarry area.
Morenz said James indicated the cemetery board would also like a share of the proceeds derived from the lease. "That's up to council," Barborak said.
"I can see the cemetery's point if some of the money comes from underneath their property," said Councilwoman Mary Ann Gray.
Councilman Willis Coleman was concerned if they agree to such an arrangement then park supporters could make a similar claim for funds. He is concerned the lease money will be "frittered" away on dozens of projects instead of being spent on major capital improvements.
"We got streets to take care of," he said.
Mayor Dan Bing had previously said he preferred the lease money serve as local matching funds needed for the village to secure state and federal grants to fund capital improvement projects.
Bing said this week he still favors doing that with the lease money but if drilling were to occur, some of the royalty revenue could be directed to the cemetery and for the parks.
"I think we should take that up after we enter into the lease," he said.
Council President Roger Gallo then sparked a lengthy discussion when he suggested asking Lisbon voters to pass a ballot issue giving council permission to lease the entire village.
Barborak was unsure if this was legal since the village would be benefiting from leasing the private property underneath residents' homes. "I can look into it more, but it doesn't appear to pass the sniff test," she said.
Mayor Bing said he would favor doing that if it meant each property owner, not just the village, would share in the lease money and royalties, which is what Gallo said he meant in making such a suggestion.
"That sounds like something you could do," Barborak said.
Gray said she heard Chesapeake was going door-to-door in the village of Carrollton and signing people to leases. Fire Chief David Lewton, who lives in Lisbon, said he contacted Chesapeake officials, who told him the company eventually intends to go door-to-door in cities and villages.