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Mall to Get New Restaurant; Some Gardeners Destroy Tomatoes

August 23, 2009
Al Molnar

Although the identity of the new tenant is not being disclosed until possibly later this week, a former restaurant site in the Ohio Valley Mall is undergoing renovation in preparation for housing another restaurant.

For several weeks the former location of the Amerasian Restaurant just inside the main entrance to the mall has been blocked off so that mall patrons were unable to view the interior. However, mall manager George Diab confirmed last week that negotiations have been virtually completed for the vacant outlet to be occupied by another Chinese restaurant.

It was also confirmed that renovation is going on behind the heavy plastic curtain that blocks the view of the interior. There was no indication when the new facility will be in operation. The Chinese restaurant that had been located there ceased operations over a year ago. It had a buffet line outside the main restaurant area and Diab said he is not certain whether that line will be operated by the new owners.

Gardeners and green thumb enthusiasts are usually a happy, carefree lot around this time of the year as their months of efforts are paying dividends - their gardens producing ample supplies of vegetables. But there is unhappiness this year because some tomato crops are sickly and in many cases unproductive.

Some gardeners are so upset they have ripped out the tomato plants they have nurtured for the past four months and destroyed them.

That has been the case with some gardeners but Bev Goodridge, coordinator of the community garden in St. Clairsville, is advising the 35 owners of garden plots not to destroy their plants even though some are infected and the plot owners are threatening to pull them out.

While the blight appears to be everywhere, Goodridge told the garden plot owners, "you don't have to yank your plants out completely. We sprayed them with a copper based product that is starting to take effect." She advised them to "cut back the infected area and keep the main stems intact. There is still time to harvest."

She identified one plot owner who has had success with his tomato plants. "Matt Steele has tomatoes and they are huge." Goodridge suggested other plot owners may be able to get good advice from Steele. "All is not lost." she exclaimed.

Every year Joe Chuckery of Maynard produces a big tomato crop from his large garden because he makes salsa - both hot and mild - and also cans tomatoes to have during the cold winter months. But that won't happen this year.

Last week he pulled out all of his tomato plants and hauled them away to be destroyed. "I had 48 to 50 plants. That's how many I plant every year." He always plants more than he needs so that he can distribute some of the tomatoes and other produce from his garden to relatives and friends.

When he first noticed the blight was affecting his tomato patch, "I bought some spray but it didn't do any good. Everything else in the garden was fine." He said the plants "had lots of tomatoes on them and some even started to ripen."

Chuckery said his friend, Eddie Goletz, showed him his garden and how the blight affected it. "All the leaves of his plants were dried up. It looked almost like it was hit by a frost."

After that Chuckery decided the best thing to do was destroy the plants. He pulled them all out and loaded them in his truck to destroy. Goletz also pulled out all of his plants. "That blight is a widespread thing. I know a lot of other people who had the same problem," he confided.

For Chuckery it was a disheartening move to get rid of the plants. "I've never seen this happen in the 20 years I've had a garden."

Bill "Red" Doleski of Lansing, who has gained notoriety over the years with his gardening ventures, wasn't spared from his plants being affected by the blight. "My plants turned white and then turned yellow. I had to throw away 135 tomatoes. I didn't pull them out right away because it looked like some of the plants were beginning to turn green again."

Before the blight became evident on the plants, Doleski marveled at all the green tomatoes he had. "I told my wife, what are we going to do with all these tomatoes?" But that concern disappeared the next day. "The deer came along and ate them all."

Doleski has in mind doing what others have. "I'm thinking about pulling out the 30 tomato plants, piling them up and burning them." But he's leery of that idea since he's so close to a wooded area but he intends to get rid of them somehow.

"This is sickening," the 91-year-old Doleski exclaimed. "You put all that work into a garden and then this happens."

When Belmont County auditor Joe Pappano informed the county commissioners of his intention to retire at the end of September, he warned them they would have to dig into a special fund to secure the funds needed to carry them through to the end of the year.

That may happen this week because as commission members have pointed out, "we're almost out of money and we have a lot of outstanding bills."

They're going to need $700,000 to pay the sheriff department salaries through to the end of this year and they are going to need about the same amount to get caught up on outstanding bills from operation of the Park Health Center.

There are also health insurance and bond payments that are due by the end of the year. The commissioners are looking at withdrawing about $2 million from the fund to meet their financial obligations.

That special fund was created years ago as kind of a "rainy day" fund to be used in emergency situations. It has been producing interest income for the general fund.

Mother Nature toyed with residents in one section of St. Clairsville during Thursday night's vicious thunderstorm. Following one bolt of lightning, lights went out for a few seconds but then came back on. About a minute or two later, another lightning bolt sent the area into darkness. But again for only a few seconds. The third time just a few seconds later was the clincher. Lights went out in the southwestern section of the city and stayed out for 3 1/2 hours.

"I was definitely shocked and pleased."

That was the way Capt. Louis Patrick, head of the Belmont County Salvation Army, described the opening of the new Family Thrift Store in the Ohio Valley Mall, which is believed to be the first social service outlet ever to be established in a mall.

On opening day, which was delayed a week because state licenses had not been received, there were lines of customers at both the inside and outside entrances. Patrick said, "it was unbelievable" how many people showed up for that first day. "Some people had to wait in line for 45 minutes or more to get checked out."

In the 15 years Patrick has been associated with the Salvation Army, he has opened six thrift stores in other states. "Of the six, this has been the biggest one," exclaimed Patrick who came to Belmont County in July of last year.

The Salvation Army had a bigger and more serious problem to contend with last week. Patrick said SA personnel were at the major fire in Martins Ferry on Thursday that destroyed three homes. Not only did SA personnel keep the firemen refreshed with large supplies of water while they battled the fire in the hot, humid temperature, but they also provided those made homeless with food, clothing, shelter and other necessities at the headquarters in Bellaire.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at:

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