A group of more than 400 Carroll County property owners has signed a lease agreement with a Pennsylvania oil company, earning $40 million in bonus money in the deal.
The group, called S.U.R.E. (Standing United Really Excel), signed the agreement June 1 with Rex Energy of State College, Pa.
The members — living in Washington, Augusta, Harrison, Center and Union townships in the central part of the county — received $3,500 an acre signing bonuses and a 20 percent gross on the royalties, according to Larry Jenkins of Carrollton, a member of the organization. Most members of the group already have received their bonuses.
Jenkins said they were told by officials from Rex that the royalty money will outweigh the signing bonuses, and those officials predicted that Carroll County has the potential to become one of the richest counties in the state.
Carroll County Commissioner Jeff Ohler said such deals will be good for landowners in the area, allowing them to pay off debt earlier than they might have otherwise and make improvements to their farms.
“In the long-term, it will create a lot of personal wealth in the county,” he said. “Unfortunately, from our standpoint, we’re still looking at the opportunity to bring jobs into the county to support that industry.”
He said commissioners will be meeting with representatives of Rex Energy and Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City to see what their employment needs will be for the next one to five years. He said the board also will be reaching out to oil company suppliers to learn about their needs.
While the oil and gas boom is good for Carroll County, commissioners also have to focus on the impact the boom will have to the county’s infrastructure, specifically roads.
Ohler said the companies have been very good in their response to road damage caused by their trucks and equipment. He noted that Chesapeake has in some cases taken a proactive approach to road repairs.
“The bottom line is, we’re going to be a good partner with them as long as they hold up their end of the bargain,” the commissioner said.
Chesapeake already has 10 well sites in the county and is predicting a total of 30 sites between now and next spring.
“Everybody has long-term concerns about what’s going to take place over the next 10 to 15 years,” Ohler said. “It’s coming fast and furious.”
Meanwhile, Jenkins and the other members of S.U.R.E. who are farmers don’t expect their lives to change because of the bonus checks.
“We’ve all struggled around here and made do with what we had,” he said. “What this money has done is ensure that these farms will be family farms for generations to come. Everybody I’ve talked to has said they’re going to keep right on farming, make improvements and make it nicer.”
S.U.R.E. charged its members $20 to cover lawyer fees, paperwork and other expenses. The group has $38,388.10 left over, which it intends to donate to families in need in Carroll County. About $30,000 of that money came from Rex Energy.
“We don’t know for sure who we’ll donate it to,” Jenkins said. “We have a couple of ideas. We’re looking at donating money to help a child with cancer, leukemia or some life-threatening disease.”