MIDDLEBOURNE, W.Va. — The Marcellus Shale gas boom is bringing a windfall to Tyler County. However, the rapid race to secure drilling rights hasn’t been without growing pains for the small county.
This week the county implemented a new lottery system for those wishing to research county map records. Before that it wasn’t uncommon for lines to form to get into the office and be there around the clock.
“If you happened to see the Occupy Wall Street, we had a small version of Occupy Middlebourne,” said County Commissioner John Stender. “It didn’t’ go over well.”
Standing in line had become a new industry. Law firms were paying locals in some cases good money to hold a place in line until their employees arrived each morning to begin a day of research in the county records room.
“Our vault and the courthouse was not built for this,” Stender said. “In normal circumstances our vault is adequate, but we can only house 19 people total in the vault and we gave 16 spaces.”
Winners of the lottery among abstractors get first crack at the tax records of the county and have two hours to do their research. The three open spaces are for attorneys and normal county residents trying to do other research.
Stender said Tyler County is the last county to endure this kind of pressure. Other counties where Marcellus Shale drilling has been prevent experienced similar situations, but nothing close to the lines which formed outside their courthouse. Bids will be taken on a contract to digitize county maps and records soon.
“Once that occurs, anything can be annexed from anywhere in the United States,” said Stender. “They can read it all they want, but if they print it we’ll bill them later for that document.”
Until that happens, Stender said the lottery is working well and has eliminated the lines. He added sources in the oil and gas industry say this is just the beginning and in the next two years drilling rigs will become common on the county roads as those leases transition into drilling sites and gas wells.
Although difficult, Stender said the county has tried to be as accommodating as they can.
“We’re trying to be as open and helpful as we can,because when you get right down to it, whatever happens is good for the residents of the county.”