There were undoubtedly some anxious moments by Belmont County residents along Wheeling Creek two weeks ago when steady heavy rains produced thoughts of that dreaded five-letter word - flood.
Warnings were issued repeatedly about a possible Ohio River flood but people who live in Barton, Maynard, Crescent and other small communities are more concerned and keep a watchful eye on Wheeling Creek because of disastrous flash flooding that has plagued the area for many years.
"The creek was running full but it stayed within its embankments," a relieved county emergency management agency director Dave Ivan declared. "We avoided a flood."
Many residents in the area had their hopes built up once again in late October when a town hall type meeting was held in Barton primarily about getting the creek dredged to eliminate flash flooding threats. Federal and local officials were present and pledged their efforts to see what could be done about not only cleaning up the creek but perhaps even do some dredging.
Sixth District U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson was at that meeting as were officials from the Corps of Engineers, Belmont County, and Colerain Township. Also there were approximately 50 residents who were told the creek project would not be put on a back burner and every effort, with the congressman in the forefront, would be made "to keep the project moving." The residents provided the officials plenty of evidence to support creek dredging.
It was only a couple of weeks later at the November general election that a snag developed. Wilson was unsuccessful in his attempt to be re-elected.
One of the first letters his successor, Bill Johnson, is likely to receive when he assumes office in January will be from Colerain Township trustee Jeff Gazdik, who teamed with county commissioner Ginny Favede in setting up the October meeting.
"I've been planning on writing him to fill him in about our creek problems," Gazdik told me last week. "I want to see what kind of assistance we can get from the new congressman." Gazdik said he intends to invite the congressman to come to Belmont County to get a first hand look at the creek situation.
In the meantime, Gazdik said he is hoping to perhaps launch a project locally to at least clean out Wheeling Creek. "I want to get a local committee together to survey the creeks in the Barton and Maynard areas to locate places where there are major obstructions and get it cleaned up," Gazdik said. "At least maybe we can get some bad spots cleaned out."
But he stressed that his and the county's efforts will continue to be directed at getting what people along the creek keep demanding, dredging.
During the October meeting there was some skepticism registered from the crowd. Joanna Bulger asked the officials, "How do we know this will not be forgotten? We've talked like this before." She pointed out previous talks have not produced anything. If things go as they have in the past, she noted, "Six years from now we will be back here again talking about the same thing."
Favede, who was accompanied to that meeting by commissioners Chuck Probst and Matt Coffland, assured Bulger and the others that the creek matter will not be forgotten as has been alleged in the past and that the meeting was the start of addressing the flooding problems facing Barton people.
"It's not going to be done overnight," she declared. "It's not going to take just a year, it's going to take a while." Favede said working with the federal officials will continue in an effort to get the problems solved.
Bulger's comments could very well have concerned a similar meeting held in October 2005. At that time representatives of Reps. Ted Strickland (he was not governor then), Bob Ney and Sen. Mike DeWine and officials of the Corps of Engineers, Ohio Department of National Resources, Ohio Emergency Management Agency, Belmont County EMA, and county commissioners, discussed the creek problems a year after hurricanes Ivan and Frances, devastated the entire county.
Dredging was offered then by residents as a possible solution but the word from the Corps was that it would not solve the problem. After numerous ideas and suggestions were put forward and discussed, there was a mention that a study of the flooding problem would be conducted.
Dick Quinlin, then director of the Belmont County EMA, had a quick and stern answer to that suggestion. "People along the creeks are tired of studies."
The Marines have landed at the Ohio Valley Mall and have taken over a strategic location right off the main court to conduct their annual drive that benefits hundreds of families and children throughout the area - "Toys for Tots."
With big boxes handy to accept donations of toys and a big jar situated on a table to collect financial donations, four burly retired Marines were manning a table and greeting contributors rather than members of the Marine Corps Reserve.
"The reserve unit has been deployed to the war zone in Afghanistan. There's only one of them left here," explained John Nanny, who has been affiliated with the toy campaign from its inception. "That's why us ex-Marine old fogies are here watching over things instead of the reserve members," Nanny declared as he was joined in laughter by his three ex-Marine cohorts.
Nanny said the lone Marine reservist still on duty locally is Cpl. Nelson Hooker of Moundsville. "He just completed officers training school" Nanny explained, which means in the next few days he will be elevated to the rank of second lieutenant.
As for the drive itself, Nanny said there has been a steady flow of contributions since Dec. 1 of both gifts and money. "It's been slow compared to last year but we look forward to it picking up. We'll be here to take donations until Dec. 23." With Nanny on Thursday were retired Marines Dwayne Meeker, David Weis and Steve Swenton.
For those who may want to call ahead to contact Nanny, he is available at 304-281-2950.
Former Belmont County auditor Joe Pappano walked away from his job at the courthouse more than a year ago but he hasn't forgotten the many personality tidbits he gathered about the many friends he made during his 32 years of service - like my love of blueberries.
Last week I received a bulky letter from him and his wife, Rosalie. Enclosed was a small catalog published by "The Blueberry Store" in Grand Junction, Mich. It is filled with all kinds of blueberry items that can be purchased, along with gift baskets for the Christmas season.
Along with the catalogue came a personal note from the couple that read: "I think the blueberry people sent this to the wrong person."
Thanks, Joe. My wife almost drooled as she glanced through it. But we still have quite a few containers of frozen blueberries in the freezer from what we picked ourselves last summer so it is not likely we'll be resorting to buying any by mail. But we'll keep it handy.
Purchasing gifts for Christmas can uncover some distressing retail schemes. A local shopper was quite upset when she discovered strictly by accident an incident showing how steep the mark-ups are on some items.
It came to light after she purchased a book that a family member had requested for Christmas. As she prepared to bundle it in seasonal wrapping paper, she made sure to remove the price tag which had been pasted on the book cover.
She was shocked to discover the store tag that had been strategically placed on the book cover hid from view a permanently embossed price figure. The store tag price almost doubled what was on the cover. She told me she promptly returned the book and was given her money back without any attempt by the store to give her the book at the lower price.
What turned out to be even more surprising was I later checked out the book publisher and found the price of the book to be $5 less than that stamped on the book cover.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.