Anchor Store Eyes Mall; Parking Still Problem at Courthouse

More than a year ago – in November 2011 – we revealed here the possibility that negotiations were virtually completed for bringing a large retail establishment as an anchor store to the Ohio Valley Mall.

Several clues to that development included the fact that the website of the Cafaro Co. of Youngstown, owners of the mall, contained a big spread on Boscov’s, a firm that had its beginning in Reading, Pa. in 1911 and now has 40 stores operating in four other states besides Pennsylvania.

But plans to locate the store here apparently stalled and while the information on the shopping firm’s website disappeared, it was known that negotiations to hopefully bring the store to the mall at some future date continued.

That was confirmed just recently by one of the top Cafaro officials. During the grand opening of the renovated mall in November, Anthony Cafaro Jr., co-president of the firm, took a minute from his busy schedule for a brief conversation with me. In answer to my questions on the mall’s future, Cafaro confirmed that Boscov’s is one of the firms with which talks have been continuing to bring the new business to the mall.

Then about a month prior to the Christmas holiday, Lashley Tractor Sales was notified that after the first of the year the farm equipment display in its outlet just two doors from the Sears store, would be relocated to a vacant spot on the Macy’s court.

With its departure as well as the closing of the Salvation Army outlet, there would be three large, adjoining vacant stores and that immediately brought on reports that a large retailer would be moving into the mall and occupying all three of those spaces.

Asked about that possibility, mall manager George Diab commented, “There might be but I don’t know”

Right after the holidays, Levin Furniture Store, which opened in the mall on a temporary basis in 2009 in the space that had been occupied since the mall opened for business by JCPenny, let it be known that it was being displaced by an anchor store and would be closing its doors. There were indications the new store would not only be occupying the Levin space but also the three vacant spaces near the Sears store.

On Friday when Levin’s was jammed with bargain seekers, I managed to corner store manager Casey McCreary about future plans. He indicated there is a possibility the store would not be leaving the mall. “I don’t know what they (Cafaro) have in mind for us,” McCreary said. But he indicated the mall officials “are trying to find a place for us.” He added, “We have to be out by the end of the month.”

A special executive session of the Belmont County Commission on Thursday came to an end without any decision being made in the case of Robin Marshall, who was relieved of her duties as 911 director and placed on paid administrative leave pending completion of an investigation over her disciplining of a 911 employee.

“We took no action,” explained commission President Chuck Probst following the executive session that also was attended by the county human resources director Christine Palmer. The commission’s attorney for the case, Mark Lucas of Columbus, was involved in the meeting via telephone.

A short time after that session ended, the commissioners went back into executive session and the only report afterwards was that they would be meeting in another executive session on Friday at 2 p.m. to discuss the personnel matter.

The Marshall case involves her discipling a 911 dispatcher after the commissioners had told her to avoid such action because the employee had left her position at the 911 office in an attempt to possibly save an accident victim’s life and the 911 office remained staffed by two other dispatchers.

Even with a newly paved, well-lined and marked parking area completed behind the Belmont County courthouse, the parking situation has not improved a bit. In fact, it is more of a problem now than before.

That’s because the new lots – one bordering Newell Avenue and the other adjoining it immediately behind the courthouse – have painted lines allowing the same amount of space for each vehicle parked there. Before the drivers parked as close together as possible, thus allowing for a few more cars in the lots.

A count I made of the cars in the two lots before construction was started to correct a collapsing wall and establish a paved parking area, showed there were a total of 83 cars parked in the two areas.

Now in the completed lots there are 13 fewer parking spaces. In the area next to the courthouse, 47 drivers will find places to park – eight fewer than the 55 previously. In the area next to Newell Avenue where a wall has been constructed to correct a slippage, just 23 spaces are available. Previously as many as 28 cars were able to squeeze into the lot even with the earth slip problem.

Soon after the lots were opened, I mentioned to Commissioner Matt Coffland, who championed the cause of establishing the new, paved lots, that the lots are fine but there is still a serious lack of parking facilities. His reply was that “at least we’re legal now.”

The parking issue was brought to the attention of the commissioners again at their first meeting of the new year by Pultney Township trustee Franklin Shaffer, who regularly attends every meeting of the commission. He detailed his problem of finding a parking place anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the courthouse.

Not only were the off-street parking areas filled but just about every onstreet parking space was likewise filled. He expressed disappointment over the fact that an empty lot owned by the commissioners directly across Newell Avenue from the former Thoburn Church building that is now a county office building had a chain linked fence in place to keep cars from using the grassy turf. Commissioners noted drivers were not only parking there illegally but also causing damage by tearing up the turf.

Shaffer was primarily concerned that some elderly people or someone with a physical impairment of some kind who might want to attend a commission meeting would have difficulty or be denied because of the parking situation. “I’m not concerned about myself but there are people who might not be able to handle the long walk,” Shaffer noted.

Another problem has developed as some drivers are partially blocking the street leading from Newell Avenue to the courthouse, creating a somewhat hazardous condition. Commissioner Ginny Favede said St. Clairsville Police Chief Martin Kendzora has been notified and will be erecting no parking signs in the area.

The first man to serve as the full time manager of the James Carnes Center on Roscoe Road about three miles west of St. Clairsville, has left to accept another position. Chris Orris of Steubenville admitted he had second thoughts about leaving but said his new job offer was too good to pass up.

“I enjoyed working at the center. I liked the job and I liked the board. I wasn’t actively looking for another job but this position came along and I could not pass it up,” Orris stated. “We had a good year at the center but as fast as the money came in it went out to keep up with expenses.” That was one of the reasons the Belmont County Tourism County granted the center funds to pay Orris’ salary.

Although he will be involved in work elsewhere, Orris offered to help out in the future if some big event was planned at the center and help was needed. Orris became manager in July 2010.

A “changing of the guard” will be taking place at the Belmont County courthouse on Monday when the president’s gavel will be passed from commission President Chuck Probst to Ginny Favede, who has been serving as the vice president during the past year. It is part of the reorganization called for in the Ohio Revised Code and will take place at 10 a.m. Monday. Commissioner Matt Coffland will assume the vice presidency.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at: