Oil and gas company’s $5,000 gift for Waterford’s diamond

WATERFORD – A Colorado-based company moving into the area for oil and natural gas drilling donated $5,000 to upgrade Waterford High School’s baseball field.

The check was presented and donation accepted during Thursday’s Wolf Creek Local Board of Education meeting in the high school library.

“We try to become a part of every community we’re in,” said Blake Roush, district operations manager for PDC Energy. “We thought it was a good opportunity to introduce ourself and show some good will.”

At the April board meeting, assistant baseball coach Gene Paxton suggested using a portion of the $375,000 the district earned by leasing its mineral rights to PDC to install new chain link fencing to enclose the baseball field and provide enclosed bullpens where pitchers and catchers can warm up. Superintendent Bob Caldwell recommended replacing the home run fence and adding fencing to stop overthrows and protect pitchers and catchers from incoming balls. He said he appreciated the work Paxton and other volunteers had done to upgrade the field but did not feel the district should spend the money for the additional fencing at this time.

A representative of PDC read a newspaper article about the situation and decided the company should pitch in on the project.

Along with like-new rolls of fencing acquired by board member Jeff Campbell, the donation means a lot of what Paxton and others wanted to see done can happen, Caldwell said. But he noted the home run fence, which he considers a safety issue, would be done first.

“We really do appreciate it,” Caldwell told Roush.

PDC is part of the influx of oil and natural gas interest in the area as new technology has opened up the deep Marcellus and Utica shale formations to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The company is drilling an exploratory well near Lowell, which Roush described as “one of the southern-most wells that’s been drilled in the state of Ohio.”

Roush attended the meeting with his wife, Terri. They recently moved to Devola, and he said he’s been tasked with leasing ground and hiring local employees for the office and contractors for drilling operations.

The board unanimously accepted the donation and also approved using money from the mineral rights leasing to pay winter and spring sports travel expenses and replace the concrete in front of the Edward Barnett Agriculture building for $16,240.78.

In other business:

Caldwell said new security systems were about three-quarters installed at Waterford Elementary and halfway installed at the high school. Once fully operational, visitors will have to press a buzzer and identify themselves before entering, and employees can enter using keycards. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office will also be able to link to the security cameras online.

The total cost of the system was $15,823.00, with Marietta-based Southeastern Security Alarm Systems donating $6,798 of that, according to an email from Wolf Creek Treasurer Rachel Miller.

At the request of a board member, Caldwell discussed concerns that have been raised about the Common Core standards. Critics have said the system, adopted by 45 states and tied to federal funding, is an improper intrusion by the federal government into education and actually lowers education standards.

Caldwell said the Common Core provides basic standards but does not dictate exactly what is taught in classrooms.

“Nothing in the Common Core, I repeat nothing, prohibits a teacher from teaching what they want to teach,” he said.

“I would be willing to bet the people who are making it controversial have yet to read the Common Core,” Caldwell added, suggesting many are repeating incorrect information they’ve heard from others.