County Hopes 2014 Is Exciting

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Belmont County commissioners expect 2014 to be an exciting year for the county, and they anticipate more growth and development there as the county experiences a boom from the oil and natural gas industry.

In 2013, commissioners signed an oil and gas lease for 406 acres of county-owned property at $7,500 an acre, according to Commissioner Matt Coffland. The deal brought the county $3,045,000.

And Coffland said he hopes commissioners can put aside issues lingering from 2013 – such as the controversy as to whether the county should fund a $1.9 million construction of a road connecting U.S. 40 with the Ohio Valley Plaza area, and whether county Senior Services should have been separated from the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services.

Coffland added that among other high points for the county this year were the completed renovation of the former sheriff’s residence next to the courthouse, and upgrades to the courtrooms on the third floor of the courthouse. The commission’s efforts won them an award from Project Best this year.

Commissioner Ginny Favede’s Christmas wish is that there be continued economic growth and prosperity for all county residents.

“I hope we come to a good and positive (resolution) on the issue of security within our public schools,” she said. “It continues to be a grave concern for me. I hope the economic development continues to bring new economic opportunities for residents here, and I hope for a good and positive answer to the Ormet issue.”

The Ormet Corp. filed paperwork in October seeking a Chapter 7 bankruptcy that is likely to lead to the liquidation of the company, and the loss of about 1,000 jobs locally. In addition to the issues at Ormet, Favede listed the layoffs of 15 people at the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services as among the lowlights in the county in 2013.

Next year, Favede said she intends to fight for more state local government and library funding for the county from the state, as well as a new kitchen for Belmont County Senior Services. The agency serves up over 900 meals each day for Belmont County residents.

Among the high points of 2013, Favede pointed to the “extraordinary growth” from a local boom in the gas industry.

Commissioner Mark Thomas joined Favede and Coffland on the board this month, and said he hopes for continued prosperity for Belmont County in 2014.

“The private/public partnership Belmont County shares with its employers is tantamount to economic success,” Thomas said. “One of my goals is to continue to foster that private/public partnership – and from the county’s goal – to continue to set the table for economic growth in 2014.”