Belmont County Gets First Casino Gambling Tax Check

A St. Clairsville area business that has catered primarily to hunters, fishermen, the outdoors types and in large part to anyone who feels a gun of some kind is a requirement for home defense, has changed ownership and in the process has nearly doubled its work force.

“Woodbury Outfitters” is the new name for the Hidden Valley Outdoors store that was opened 10 years ago by a trio of Belmont County residents – Anthony Borkoski, Allen Jaworski and Chuck Bell.

Borkoski has been retained at the store as manager by the new owner, Joe Miller of Coshocton. Miller owns a store by the identical name in Coshocton. That store opened for business at about the same time as the Hidden Valley store was opened a decade ago.

“The store changed hands a couple of weeks ago,” Borkoski said, adding “but he (Miller) hasn’t really changed anything.” All kinds of gear and equipment for hunters, fishermen, archery enthusiasts, including boots and clothing, are stocked in the store located on Reservoir Road, just west of the St. Clairsville corporate limits. It is visible and accessible from National Road.

But guns are the biggest seller. Every kind of small arms weapon from handguns to semiautomatic weapons is available at the store and Borkoski said gun sales “have been very good.” He said the store’s inventory of guns is in the 800 range. And he emphasized there has been no increase or decrease in the gun sales in the aftermath of the recent incidents where mass killings took place in a church, a school and theater.

Borkoski said Miller retained all of the store’s employees when he assumed ownership and added few more. “We have a total workforce of 23 now. Before we had about a dozen.”

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There’s an old, well-worn phrase associated with government, improvement projects and economic conditions to name a few, that I have heard repeated many times. It goes something like “it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”

That’s exactly what is happening with the parking situation in the lots behind the Belmont County courthouse in St. Clairsville. Part of the parking area bordering Newell Avenue has been roped off because of the deteriorating condition of the back wall nearest the building housing Whiteside’s body shop.

Commissioners said heavy rains have caused the wall of railroad ties to slip and by roping off that portion of the lot, about a dozen parking spaces have been eliminated until the reconstruction project is finally completed. A retaining wall of identical construction along Newell Avenue also has been slipping for some time.

At their meeting last week, the commissioners approved seeking bids for resurfacing the parking lot. A lot of work has to be done before the resurfacing can begin. That includes rebuilding the two retaining walls that support the parking area. Bill Street of Street Engineering & Surveying has been retained to do an engineering study and prepare specifications for the project.

Commissioners anticipate the improvement cost may run into the six figures. When it is completed the lot will have striped parking spaces, something not provided on the rough surface in the present parking area.

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Gambling casino money has finally come to Belmont County.

The county has received its first payment – $64,000 – from funds garnered by the state from the gambling casinos operating in the Buckeye State. And the county commissioners wasted no time in pinpointing a use for the money.

A Capital Projects-Facilities Fund was established by the commissioners and the first project to be funded by the gambling casino money will be the expansion and improvement of the parking lot behind the courthouse. As mentioned earlier, bids for that improvement are now being sought.

Auditor Andy Sutak confirmed the $64,000 check is the first one the county has received since casino gambling started in Ohio. There are four casinos authorized to operate in Ohio – in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati. Ohio residents in November 2009 voted to amend the state constitution and permit the establishment of one casino in each of the four cities. At that time it was anticipated the state could realize about $600 million from the tax on casino wagering.

According to the resolution adopted by the commissioners it was “necessary to establish a Capital Projects-Facilities Fund to accumulate resources for the acquisition, construction or improvement of fixed assets.” The fund will accumulate revenue from the general fund to meet “contingencies and unexpected emergencies related to maintaining facilities and equipment.”

The legislation sets out that the fund may be rescinded at any time and that revenue shall not be accumulated in the fund for more than 10 years.

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We got the “official” word last week that the approaching winter is going to be a really harsh one. That notice came from not one, but two woolly worms my wife spotted in our front yard. Both were decked out in black fur, a sign that we could be facing a miserably cold winter.

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Motorists got whacked at the gasoline pumps again last week. Prices skyrocketed to just a few cents under $4 a gallon at most stations. One St. Clairsville area station had a sky sign reflecting $3.59 a gallon for regular unleaded. But there was one big problem – the station was sporting new pumps but they were inoperative and the station was closed.

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What a difference a year makes …

At this time last year I was most enthusiastic about the production of my little garden – the tomatoes were the biggest ever and were being produced in greater numbers than usual, cucumbers were coming in so plentiful I was giving them away and peppers were developing in sufficient numbers and size to be stuffed and served for dinner.

This year the tomato crop has been just short of a disaster, not solely because the deer population occasionally feasted on the plants but also because weather conditions and perhaps lazy soil kept them very small in size and number compared to last year. That hasn’t been a devastating blow to me personally since I can’t eat tomatoes, or potatoes, for health reasons. I do sneak some of both in occasionally. But my wife still eats them and cooks with them and it was especially for her that the tomatoes were planted.

What has thrilled me most, however, are the pepper plants. Last week I picked a red pepper, the kind that sell anywhere from $1 to $1.99 each in food markets, and there are many more still on the vines – plenty for stuffed peppers and salads. And there are green beans and six large, lovely heads of red cabbage. At least four of them have been committed to friends.

One thing I have carefully observed his year. Deer will eat tomato plants and flowers and some other garden items but I saw three of them walk within inches of the wide spread of cabbage and peppers without taking a bite.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at: