Oil and gas lease research proving gusher for county
Polk County Enterprise, March 2007
LIVINGSTON – The deed records office at the Polk County Courthouse has been gushing revenue thanks to the regional surge in oil and gas consultants seeking mineral rights to drill new wells in the county.
County Clerk Barbara Middleton said the crowd of people waiting to take a turn at one of the public access computer terminals and make copies filled the office last week.
Chief Deputy Schelana Walker added that several companies are racking up about $1,000 a month in copy fees.
The clerk’s office has already collected more than half the revenue projected for the year just five months into the budget year, County Treasurer Nola Reneau said.
The last two months have generated the highest fees yet, Reneau said.
The heavy demand stems from the high oil prices around the world, but in Texas researching ownership of mineral rights can be more complicated.
In the Lone Star state, mineral rights can be severed from surface ownership.
Just because property has been in the family for generations doesn’t necessarily mean a check is in the mail when a derrick goes up.
Some owners of legacy farms have been disappointed to learn that mineral rights were sold as far back as the 1930s, according to the Texas A&M Real Estate Center.
In the clerk’s office, the recent high demand for property records exhausted one copier and it has been replaced with an upgraded model, Walker said.
Staff members also have to use machines in an adjacent office to keep up with demand, Walker said.
Two employees were lured away from the clerk’s office to better-paying jobs with oil and gas companies, she added.
Walker said when she joined the county clerk’s office staff about seven years ago, typically four or five people a day would come in to research deed records.
Now, lines form for a seat at the computer terminal and the clerk’s office plans to add two more public access stations to meet that ongoing demand.