Public Hearing Set on Car License Fee; DJFS Head Resigns

So far the public reaction to a proposed $10 hike in the cost of car license plates has been virtually non-existent but that could change when the first public hearing on the request filed by Belmont County Engineer Fred Bennett with the county commissioners is held on Tuesday.

Bennett’s request was for two $5 permissive license fees effective at the start of next year in order to secure the funds needed to improve county roads and bridges. Bennett estimated the fee would produce about $530.000 annually and that all of the funds would be used to improve the county’s roads and bridges.

All 16 townships in the county would receive a share of the funds from the license fee and all but two municipalities would likewise receive a portion of the funds.

Although the request was given tentative approval by all three members of the board, commission President Ginny Favede reserved final judgment on the proposal until the two public hearings are held.

Because of the revenue cuts that continue to plague the county, Bennett said his department lacks sufficient funds to keep up with the road improvements and bridge construction and replacement. He pointed out the major source of funds for the engineer’s office is from gasoline tax. Those funds, he pointed out, have been on a continual decline. Last year the gas tax provided $4,561,000. In 2007 the total was $4,677,000.

The first hearing as required by Ohio law on Tuesday will be at 10:30 a.m. in the commissioners meeting room at the courthouse. The second hearing will be held in the same location on Wednesday, May 1, at 10:30 a.m.

Only about a half dozen complaints about the proposed increase have been heard. One complaint to the commission was from a resident who said he owned three vehicles and the increase would cost him $30 more for the plates. From general conversations since the fee was made public I’ve have heard only two people who spoke against it.

Based on the 2011 car registrations, the townships would receive the following amounts from the license fee: Colerain, $15,570; Flushing, $3,126; Goshen, $7,032; Kirkwood, $1,560; Mead, $10,905; Pease, $15,864; Pultney, $17,076; Richland, $26,943; Smith, $6,180; Somerset, $4,872; Union, $8,337; Warren, $8,070; Washington, $2,457; Wayne, $3,129; Wheeling, $6,303; and York, $4,960.

Municipalities would receive the following: Barnesville, $10,357.50; Bellaire, $9,050; Belmont, $1,597.50; Bethesda, $2,640; Bridgeport, $5,475; Brookside, $1,817; Holloway, $985; Morristown, $1,075; St. Clairsville, $14,270; Shadyside, $9,357.50; and Yorkville, $1,072. Martins Ferry and Powhatan Point would not receive anything because they currently assess the additional permissive license fee.

“I’m looking forward to new opportunities. There is nothing firm as yet.”

With that brief statement, Dwayne Pielech, director of the Belmont County Department of Jobs and Family Services, summed up why he has submitted his resignation to the Belmont County commissioners to become effective on Monday, July 12.

But in his letter to commission President Ginny Favede, Pielech stated, “It is with great disappointment that I submit my resignation.” His brief letter went on to say, “There are more and more important agency decisions accumulating at the courthouse in which the board hasn’t completed. As your director and partner, I am concerned that failing to address or decide these issues will lead to larger problems.”

His resignation letter came a week before the commissioners on Wednesday accepted it. But it was not a unanimous acceptance. Commissioner Matt Coffland voted against accepting it because of the outstanding job Pielech has done. “We’re losing one heck of a director,” Coffland exclaimed later. “I wanted to sit down with him and talk this over to see what we could work out. He is very well respected and connected with the state. I don’t want to see him go.”

Pielech’s resgignation letter was handled as a routine motion during Wednesday’s commission meeting. The 2-1 vote was taken and there was no discussion.

“I’ve been here 14 years. I feel it is time for a change. There is a lot of responsibility and a very stressful job running a one hundred million dollar agency,” Pielech said later. “In this job you are a very, very public person.” By that he implied even while he is on his own time relaxing at some public place, he is constantly approached by people with complaints or comments about how matters are handled by the DJFS.

“It’s like I’m on the spot 24/7.”

A gala celebration is planned for Friday, 5:30-7:30 p.m., to mark the grand opening of the ultra-modern Thomas Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram auto agency located on Mall Road, adjacent to the Ohio Valley Mall. The St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce will stage a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. inside the new home of the Thomas agency that had been a part of St. Clairsville for nearly a century.

Brian and Robert Thomas initiated the relocation of the dealership that was started by their grandfather, then continued for many years by their father, Harland, until the two of them took over the reins of the business.

Skits, silly songs, face painting, sack races and plenty of the most important ingredient – asparagus – will be featured at the “Experience Asparagus Festival” on Saturday, 1-5 p.m., at the farm of Tom and Myra Thornton, 50222 Cook Road, Jacobsburg. Free samples of asparagus dishes will be given away during the funraising event, the proceeds going to a few different local nonprofit organizations. From 25 to30 vendors will be there.

Finishing the bomb-battered Boston Marathon early proved to be a blessing for Jennifer Garczyk, a racing enthusiast from Maynard. She had finished the 26.2-mile run on Tuesday and was far enough away that she was unaffected by the two bomb blasts that killed three people and injured more than 180.

“Fortunately I had finished the race and had walked about two blocks to meet my husband and sister,” Jennifer related. “I was running the race for Boston Children’s Hospital and for Timmy, a patient with several disabilities. I was in a celebration mode.”

But her celebrating didn’t last long because the mad rush by hundreds of fans was evidence to her that something had happened. “I didn’t hear the bombs. I was about two blocks away.”

She didn’t go back to the blast scene. “I couldn’t go back because the streets were blocked off by police.” But she was touched by how the Bostonians reacted to the emergency. “Everyone was very kind, generous and accommodating.”

News tips sometimes come to me in the strangest ways.

As I was walking through the parking lot headed toward the entrance to the Rural King store at the Ohio Valley Mall, a slow moving car pulled up alongside me and the driver popped his head out the window and shouted to me – “I bought gasoline in Cambridge yesterday for $3.36 a gallon.” He didn’t stop, just kept moving out of the lot.

It was a familiar face but unfortunately I cannot attach a name to it. But his information was very interesting since at that time gasoline was selling for $3.699 at most stations in this area.

Then three days ago came this email from Dave Hays of St. Clairsville: “I live in St. Clairsville and work in Steubenville. I just want to let you know the price for a gallon of gasoline in Steubenville has been $3.47 a gallon all week while the price in St. Clairsville has been stuck at $3.699. This is very typical. I also travel to Columbus periodically and prices drop fast once you drive out of Belmont County.”

Molnar can be reached via email at: or at (740) 695-5233.