Critical Space Problem in County; Boscov’s Is Official, Finally

Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week …. it’s possible.

Keeping the Recorder’s Office in the Belmont County courthouse open on Saturdays and Sundays, plus three hours overtime on Mondays through Fridays, is still not sufficient time for the legal work to be accomplished by those obtaining land leases for the oil/gas companies.

“Now I’ve been asked for even more extended hours,” exclaimed a somewhat exasperated Mary Catherine Nixon, who has served five consecutive terms in that office but none as prosperous, busy and climactic as this one.

“I have even heard suggestions that maybe we ought to be open 24 hours a day.” And she said that suggestion has been given more than just casual thought.

The upsurge in the Marcellus and Utica shale operations in Belmont County has jammed the office to the point that there is not even standing room available. Abstrators line up before the office opens in the morning to be first at a spot at one of the tables in the room. Once all the available spots are filled and all available space in the outer office and corridor are taken, those remaining line up and as soon as one spot opens, the first in line quickly move into that spot. This goes on all day, every day.

For many months the balcony in the recorder’s office was off limits. But since the removal of the tons of records that were stored in the upper level eliminated the threat of its collapse, abstractors were allowed to use that area.

“I allow no more than 10 people on the balcony at one time,” Nixon noted. It is constantly filled.

To keep part of the staff and the office open three hours extra every weekday evening, the companies involved each must pay $500. That does not include the payment to the sheriff’s deputy operating the security station in the courthouse. That individual is working on double time pay.

In addition to the payment for the staff keeping the office open on Satudays and Sundays, the companies involved must also pay for the maintenance of the second floor.

Next weekend the oil and gas companies will lose two days of work by their abstractors. On Friday the Recorder’s Office will be closed for repairs. “We’re going to have the office painted and a new floor installed.” Pointing to a worn and torn spot in the rug in her office, Nixon declared, “This rug has been on this floor for 17 years.”

With all the money flowing into her office from the oil and gas people, Nixon said she could pay for the improvements from her own budget. However, Belmont County Commission president Ginny Favede said the commission will split the cost with the recorder.

Nixon said she has secured bids from three contractors for the floor installation but as of late last week, no decision had been made by the commissioners on who will do the work. Next weekend was chosen for the project so that only one work day will be lost. The Recorder’s Office will be closed on Friday for the start of the project. The work will continue through to Tuesday. The courthouse is closed Monday for the observance of Presidents Day.

Anthony Cafaro Jr., co-president of the Cafaro Co. of Youngstown, openly and quickly approved and welcomed the suggestion by Belmont County Sheriff David M. Lucas for establishment of a branch unit of the sheriff’s office in the Ohio Valley Mall.

The two conferred for a few minutes prior to Cafaro joining Albert Boscov, to officially announce what he termed “very exciting news,” plans for establishment of a huge Boscov’s department store in the anchor location vacated just a week ago by Levin Furniture and prior to that by JC Penney Co.

Five stores will have to vacate their present locations to make room for the 180,000- square-foot Boscov store, but Cafaro officials said all of the affected stores – Books-A-Million, Victoria’s Secret, Raven Rocks Workwear and Kitchen Collection – will be relocated to other spots within the mall.

Prior the start of the official announcement, I introduced myself to Boscov, chairman and CEO of Boscov’s, and found him to be a very warm, friendly and amiable individual. And he was ready and willing to talk about his store where people will be able to find just about everything they’re looking for and “have fun shopping.”

Our brief conversation turned to the length of time his store has been on the minds of area residents. I told him, “My first story about your store coming to the Ohio Valley Mall was in November 2011.” That produced a surprised look, a big smile and a friendly hug from Boscov.

The hug surprised me, too. Boscov went on to explain the store didn’t come back then because of space considerations. He wanted more space than what had suited previous stores in that location. He said the space available was increased to 160,000 square feet but the still was not quite enough.

When the 180,000 square foot level was reached, the deal for establishing the first Boscov’s department store in Ohio was finalized. And Boscov proudly pointed out the store will bring 300 jobs to this area.

He then joined Cafaro on the speaker’s platform and following their brief comments were given a round of applause by the crowd that included many Belmont County and Richland Township officials and others.

Lucas said plans will be started immediately to establish the branch sheriff’s office in the mall. “We’re going to have our reserve unit working out of there,” Lucas explained. Members of the reserve unit are all volunteer workers who undergo 16 hours of training each month. “They’re fully certified in law enforcement and have arrest powers,” the sheriff noted.

Lucas told Cafaro operation of the office in the mall is intended to supplement the security force in the mall and not to replace it or affect them in any way.

About 10 years ago when Tom McCort was the sheriff, Lucas said he established the office in the mall. But as a sergeant he had other duties, not devoting full attention to the satellite office. “After a couple of years the operation fizzled out,” Lucas noted.

Eventually it was closed even though the sign identifying it as a sheriff’s department office remained on the display window. The sign was removed during the mall renovation project last year.

“He really would like to have the office in the mall,” Lucas said later about his talk with Cafaro. “They are looking forward to it opening.” Lucas said he hopes to have the office operational in the spring.

Ohio Valley mall manager George Diab missed out on the festive announcement involving the Boscov store. He also missed all the snow earlier this week as he basked in the warmth and sunshine during his vacation in Florida.

Showing care and respect for loved ones who have passed away is uppermost in the minds and hearts of family members and friends.

A special program centering on one means to accomplish and enhance that will be presented by the Cumberland Trail Genealogical Society at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the St. Clairsville Public Library.

Guest speaker Mark Morton, an expert in the field of tombstone restoration and preservation, will share his expertise with the society members. His presentation will involve a cemetery tour. The society notes the speaker “will walk us through the complete restoration of a long forgotten 1821 Baptist Cemetery and show the process that gives dignity back to those who came before us.” Viewers will be able to “watch how broken shards of marble turn back into works of art.”

All society meetings on the second Monday of each month are open to the public but the society is seeking new members. The dues are $14 a year which includes six newsletters. For more info call 740 795-5095 or 740 676-4817.

Many times over the past months and years it has been mentioned here the marked difference in how fast the price of gasoline goes up contrasting to the slow pace at which it declines. Last weekend was a good example of that.

In this corner last week I wrote that two quick price hikes during the previous week had increased the price of a gallon of gasoline from $3.199 to $3.499. After sending the column to the office in Wheeling Friday afternoon for publication, I was driving through town and was surprised to see stations had posted the price of gasoline at $3.59 a gallon.

So I called the office immediately to see if that $3.499 price could be changed to $3.599. It was made and that’s the price reflected in this corner last week.

But even before the Sunday edition could go to press, the gasoline price had shot up another 10 cents a gallon to $3.699. No way to change it then. As this is being written, that $3.699 price is still in effect and if there is any change before this goes to press, you can bet it will be an increase rather than a decrease.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at: or by phone at 740 695-5233.