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Connellsville school board approves lease agreement with natural gas company

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 7:10 p.m.

Connellsville Area School Board on Tuesday voted to enter into a lease agreement with a natural gas company that could bring more than $375,000 to the school district.

The board voted during a special 5:30 p.m. session. Directors Kevin Lape and Francis Mongell voted against entering a lease agreement with Chevron for feasibility studies on school district land.

The land in the lease agreement includes 220 to 240 acres. The property is at the site of several schools, including Dunbar Township, Dunbar Borough, Bullskin, Springfield and the Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center.

Michael Omatick, district director of buildings and grounds, said the lease agreement will provide the district $1,500 per acre of land, which could mean $330,000 to $375,000 for the district.

If Chevron decides to drill for natural gas on the land, the district would receive royalties, but Omatick had doubts that the company will drill on the land because of the lack of drilling sites in the Connellsville area.

The same land was leased for the same purpose to Atlas Energy five or six years ago; Chevron, which purchased Atlas, was interested in renewing the lease agreement the district had with Atlas.

Connellsville Superintendant Dr. Dan Lujetic said the district signed Chevron's standard lease agreement contract.

Originally, after a review by the district's solicitor, the district sent the agreement back to Chevron with an addendum that included Chevron agreeing to pay the district for a well on the land that was not active or working during school hours. Chevron did not agree to the addendum and informed the district that it was the standard contract or nothing.

Although the addendum was not included in the contract the district approved, Lujetic said he feels confident that the lease agreement will be beneficial to the district.

“They have a good safety records, and that was important,” Lujetic said. “And it will help us financially.”

In other business, the board voted to solicit bids for the Connellsville Junior High West renovation.

Omatick said the district will advertise beginning on Friday and will open the bids in March during a special meeting.

Mongell voted against the motion.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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