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Gardendale Drilling, Part 4

Community divided on whether incorporating is a good solution<br mce_bogus="1">
Over the past several weeks, we've been talking about the increased drilling activity out in Gardendale. After spending time with residents,  the drilling is clearly effected different residents in different ways. While some fear for their homes and farms, others say it's bringing them more business than they've ever seen.

It's the group of residents who fear for their future that are taking unique action to try and protect what they feel is rightfully theirs.

Gardendale Land Owner Association member Haskell Williamson has lived in Gardendale for seven years. Like most residents in this small Ector County community, he moved there for a reason. "It's a hobby community. It's a community that wants the ability to ride a horse, to ride a motorcycle on the dirt roads, to enjoy the outdoors."

But as the outdoors are becoming filled with drilling rigs, this peaceful community is turning into a less pleasant place to live. After finding a stake right by his home that will soon be replaced with a rig, Williamson became one of the many landowners who face plummeting property values.

"The fact of the matter is, the way I analyzed it myself, is we have an issue currently that we need to address," says Williamson. But with little power against these oil companies, GLOA members concluded that incorporating was the best option they had to gain more control. "Without incorporating, Gardendale does not have anything to protect ourselves. We don't have a set of rules, a set of guidelines by which we can keep this activity in check for our community, our property, our water."

Although incorporating has it's disadvantages, like higher taxes, Williamson says it's still the best option they have to secure Gardendale's future. "The fact of the matter is, I would prefer to have a home to live in and to pay a small amount of additional taxes than not have a home at all."

They only needed 10% of the community to sign the petition in order to get incorporating on the May ballot. They ended up getting 25% before having to turn it into the county earlier this week. Although the number boosted their confidence, they're very aware that not everyone supports the idea.

Gardendale landowner Jimmy Skipworth is one of the landowners who is not convinced incorporating is a good idea.

Skipworth says he moved to Gardendale almost 21 years ago. "(I wanted) to be away from all the people and traffic and all that stuff."

Higher taxes is not his main concern. It's his lifestyle that brought him to Gardendale in the first place. "I like the fact that there's no one watching over us all the time and sticking their nose in our business."

And that's exactly what he fears the GLOA is trying to do. Skipworth says their main goal is gaining control. "Why does anyone that works in government get in government. They like control."
   
At the end of the day, he says incorporating isn't worth what it'll cost the community. He says if the oil companies want to drill to get their minerals, they'll find a way to do it. "An ordinance will not override the state law."

Williamson says they've had several residents address that same concern. "That was another big thing we hear. I'll sign your paper, but there's nothing you can do about this. What can you do about this? And the answer was - everything we can."

And so that's what the GLOA is doing. Knowing there are still some people like Skipworth who aren't convinced incorporating is the answer, Williamson says their main goal is to protect the community.

Now registered voters will decide what happens next in the May election.

In the meantime, the GLOA is hosting a viewing on Monday of the Academy Award nominated documentary Gasland, which looks at the possible impact of gas well drilling utilizing high pressure fracking. They've invited Berry Petroleum and Rising Star Energy, the main oil companies drilling in Gardendale, to come and speak with residents about their concerns. Big 2 News will be attending the event and will bring you the details Monday night at 10pm.
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