As the shale gas boom rolls on, one service county government provides has come under strain.
Tyler County Commission President John Stender explained, "The citizens of the county that have leases up -- that's, you know, they're wanting their money. With people coming in, throwing big money at them -- and we're trying to make the courthouse available."
Oil and gas abstractors need access to county records to clear up who owns mineral rights. Tyler County doesn't have a great deal of room for that work. So brokers handling the abstractors began paying people to stand in line at the courthouse to get a jump on the available room -- which brought a set of problems.
Stender described the problem this way. "It was like 'Occupy Middlebourne.' And it was getting to be kinda rough-looking. We had campers, we had tents, we had everything."
So at a special meeting of the Tyler County Commission on July 18, Tyler County Clerk Teresea Hamilton announced a lottery system for access to county records for the abstractors, which seemed to satisfy some concerns.
Brandy Glover-Frye resides in the courthouse neighborhood. She had come prepared to address the commissioners, but announcement of the lottery system mollified her. "Really, it addressed all of the concerns that we had," she said, "minus the parking in front of mailboxes and driveways, and littering."
One group couldn't attend the meeting, because they were standing in line. Many expressed unhappiness with the new lottery system which would take effect.
"If you talk to these people here, they're the nicest people you will ever meet," one of the "line-sitters", Stephanie Kelley, said. "You know, they're struggling to pay bills, just like most people. People here -- they can barely afford stuff for their babies, you know. And this was our job," Kelley continued.
A job soon replaced by advances in technology, as Stender announced plans to put out bids to digitize the records the abstractors need. He said the county had already put $100,000 of county funds into the effort. Oil and gas companies, Stender said, had given verbal commitments to assist in funding that project.