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S. Illinois Counties Seeing First Of Fracking Rush

"When all this activity first started, it was overwhelming to say the least," she said, noting three to four dozen people at a time once sought access land records she's now digitizing.

It's a similar story in Wayne County, where the governing board uniformly has endorsed fracking. Clerk Glenda Young estimates her office has collected $200,000 in fees since 2011, plowing a chunk of that money into a soon-to-be-completed push to put her records online.

"That wouldn't have happened had it not been for the rush" from which more than 2,000 land leases have been recorded since January 2010, she said.

In both settings, the rush has tapered a bit, leaving elected officials in the counties eager for what they hope is the next wave of fracking prosperity.

Now, "we're waiting on the oil boom," said Gary Sloan, Wayne County's board chairman. "It would change the county, and it'd never the same â¿¿ but in a positive way. Bring it on, and the sooner the better."

Near the county's courthouse in 5,400-resident Fairfield, Julie McGill credits the land rush with saving her Jemini Coffee House. After the economy tanked five years ago, she said, "we thought about selling but decided to hang on a little longer." In came the land men, whose patronage of McGill's shop helped her pay off the business' 10-year bank note.

"They came at the right time, by the grace of God," she said.

___

Associated Press writer Tammy Webber contributed to this report from Chicago.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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