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St. C. Getting New Bank; Candidates File for Sheriff, Treasurer

December 4, 2011
Al Molnar , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

A new full-service bank will open and be in operation in St. Clairsville within the next two months. Premier Bank & Trust, located in the Plaza West strip mall, has under construction a branch bank that is being equipped with a dual lane drive-through facility and an ATM machine.

"We're really excited about having this new full service branch," exclaimed Denise Penz, chief operating officer. The new 3,000 square foot facility is being constructed at the northern end of the strip mall in the Plaza West shopping center that is anchored by Riesbeck's Food Market.

The new bank is located just a few doors from the present bank, which has been a fixture in the mall for two years and will continue uninterrupted operations in the same location. During the two years it has been in the mall, Penz said the bank has been involved primarily in "wealth management, doing trusts, investments, estate planning, stocks and bonds."

But changes will come with the branch bank. Penz pointed out all the services offered by banks, such as checking, savings, loans and other financial dealings will be available at the branch bank. "Our target date for opening the branch is Feb. 1." But she added it is possible the opening could come the latter part of January.

With the new branch, Premier Bank & Trust will double its work force. At the present facility there are seven employees and the branch will open with a staff of seven new employees. Penz noted they have been taking applications for several weeks and their first move will be to employ a branch manager and let him fill the staff.

One business in the strip mall had to relocate its offices to allow construction of the new bank.

With the early deadline for filing nominating petitions for the March 6 primary election just around the corner, candidate activity was on the increase last week with Belmont County Sheriff Fred Thompson confirming he will be a candidate for re-election and two candidates filing their intentions to challenge for the sheriff's post.

In addition, a former county official has revealed he is getting his petition finalized to become the third person in the race to succeed Joe Gaudio as Belmont County treasurer. Gaudio announced last month he will not seek re-election.

Thompson, who has been a county employee for 35 years - 18 of them with the sheriff's office - will be bidding to gain his third term as sheriff. Prior to his law enforcement tenure, Thompson worked with the public defender's office for eight years and was the bailiff in Belmont County Common Pleas Court for nine years.

Without hesitating, Thompson admitted his greatest experience as a deputy was being the chief county investigator in solving the serial killing of five outdoorsmen, including one from Belmont County. After an investigation that spanned four years and involved authorities from five counties as well as state investigators and the FBI, Stark County resident Thomas Dillon was arrested. Dillon received a sentence of life in prison and that's where he died in October.

Dave Lucas of St. Clairsville, who retired with the rank of major after nearly 27 years on the Belmont County sheriff's staff, has filed his petition to seek the Republican nomination for sheriff. This will be Lucas' second effort to gain a nomination. Four years ago he came up short 850 votes in the Democrat primary that included two other candidates in addition to Sheriff Fred Thompson.

"I did my job, I earned my keep. Now I'd like to give something back to the county," Lucas asserted. "I am very qualified and believe I can do a lot of good for the county." He described the sheriff's office as a business and that he has had the business experience not only in his service as a deputy but also in operating the Pyrotechnics-by-Presutti with his wife, Bobbie Presutti-Lucas.

In October 2007, Lucas retired from the sheriff's staff with the intention of seeking the sheriff's nomination. He served as a road deputy for four years. In 1995 he was promoted to sergeant on the road crew and just prior to his retirement was elevated to the rank of major. He has since been involved with the fireworks company.

Also filing his petition for the sheriff's job was Dick Flanagan, a veteran member of the Bellaire Police Department.

Another three-way race has developed for treasurer, with former Belmont County Commissioner Mike Bianconi of Brookside revealing that he will be a candidate on the Democrat ticket that already includes two earlier filers - Katherine Curfman and Michael Shaheen.

Bianconi, who has developed a reputation for being outspoken on various county issues, in particular those involving taxes paid by county residents, has had 20 years in public service as both a county commissioner and as a township trustee. "I'm very active and I like to be involved in county government," Bianconi asserted. He feels dedicated to "community service" which started way back when he was a teenager and a resident of Wolfhurst where he was very active in the Wolfhurst Volunteer Fire Department.

He was elected to two terms as county commissioner, serving from 1992 to 1998. Since then he has served as Pease Township trustee and in numerous other community endeavors.

Candidates from both the Democrat and Republican parties have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to file nominating petitions for the March 6 primary election - one of two primaries currently scheduled in Ohio. The second one, tentatively set for June 12, will be to pick representatives from the congressional districts that are yet to be finalized and also choose presidential candidates.

Originally there was to be 200,000 pounds of food to be brought to Belmont County for distribution to the needy in a six-county area. But since that announcement a month ago, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank received additional food donations to raise the huge total to over 300,000 pounds.

As a result, an estimated 15,000 people from 8,000 households in the six county East Ohio area will share in the first such special distribution of 300,000 pounds of food from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank in Grove City.

Thirty organizations such as food pantries, Salvation Army, churches, and others involved in distributing food to the needy in the six county area of Belmont, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe, Guernsey and Noble counties spent Thursday and Friday claiming their share of the huge store of food housed in the vacant Thomas, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep building that is to be converted into the new home of the car agency next to the Ohio Valley Mall.

Bridget DeCrane, Mid-Ohio Foodbank vice president, said the additional donations of food included a most generous and urgently needed contribution of 500,000 baby diapers. "Some families are going to be very happy to receive the diapers," she commented.

Belmont County Sheriff Fred Thompson was a bit miffed last week over a story that received widespread attention by all the media involving a building and land purchase in Morristown by Chesapeake Energy.

It was reported the $330,000 paid for the property was alleged to have gone to the Belmont County Sheriff's Department. "That was totally wrong," Thompson declared. "The property was sold at a sheriff's auction and the money went to United Bank, who owned the mortgage for the property." He said the sheriff's department received a $317 fee for handling the sale.He added, "$167 of that went for the appraisal and $150 went for taxes. We (sheriff's department) didn't get a cent."

Al Molnar can be reached via email at:

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