Gas and oil companies aren't the only businesses taking a special interest in Belmont County. The medical profession is heightening its presence with three new medical facilities either already open and in operation or on the drawing board for development in Belmont County.
Two of the locations are in St. Clairsville and the other one is in Bridgeport.
One of the facilities - the Belmont Cardiac Center located at 157 National Road, just east of the St. Clairsville corporate limits - has began accepting patients even though the building where the office is located is still undergoing some minor renovations which were started approximately a month ago.
Dr. Devender K. Batra of Wheeling, a cardiologist with a staff of 10 employees, moved his practice into the new quarters last week. The building had previously been occupied by Dr. Kasiraja Sathappan, a child psychiatrist.
In connection with the proposed Bridgeport project, the Belmont County commissioners on Dec. 20, approved signing a letter of commitment to Chiron Partners, LLC, with offices in New York and Moscow, Russia, for a loan in the amount of $100,000
According to that document, the funds are to come from the local Revolving Loan Fund for the purpose of acquiring real estate for construction of a Surgery Center on a 2.5 acre plot of land bordering the back channel of the Ohio River. A source also revealed the Ohio Mid Eastern Government Association has made a verbal commitment to provide an additional $100,000 for the land purchase.
Although the commissioners declined to reveal any other details concerning the proposed project, the site has already been cleared to prepare it for eventual construction. It is located south of the Bob Evans Restaurant on Ohio 7 and extends to the vicinity of the Bridgeport water plant.
The property is under the trustee ownership of William M. Wendell of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The Chiron firm to which the revolving loan fund was committed is a transaction advisor and investor.
Under construction and renovation on the approximately 3-acre site of the former Elby's Resaurant at 51420 National Road East, St. Clairsville, is a new Belmont Medical Center.
In July 2007, the five Ohio Valley physicians - Gem E. Jao, Melvin T. Saludes, Renato F. Delacruz, Demetrio J. Agcaoili and Naba Goswami - purchased the building and land. Two months later, in September 2007, the doctors and their wives, with the exception of Naba Goswami, who was listed as unmarried in the general warranty deed, transferred ownership to the Belmont Medical Center.
For approximately four years the building that housed the restaurant stood vacant but in mid-2011 reconstruction of the building's interior was started. It is likely that work will be completed later this year.
When all the Elby's Restaurants in the Ohio Valley went out of business, the owners, Elias Brothers Restaurants, Inc. of Warren, Mich., sold the St. Clairsville site to Whiteside Realty Realty Inc. for $575,000. That transaction was recorded in March 2000.
After years of negotiating and planning the Belmont County commissioners put the restoration of the former sheriff's residence linked to the century-old, abandoned county jail up for contractor's bids.
It was back during the term of the previous board of commissioners that a $679,000 enhancement grant was received from the Ohio Department of Transportation for the project to restore the historic building. Just prior to the expiration of the grant, Commissioner Ginny Favede succeeded in getting the Belmont County Tourism Council to put up the $150,000 matching funds for the grant. In addition she secured $70,000 to cover architect's fees.
Plans are to convert the building into a satellite tourism office and also to transform it into a kind of museum to feature artifacts and historical literature from all communities in the county. Bids on the project will be opened by the commissioners on Feb. 1.
The St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce is expected to have an announcement this week on a new executive director.
After six and one-half years as head of the chamber, Amy Aspenwall has submitted her resignation effective the end of this week. She has accepted a position with Williams Lea, a documentation outsourcing firm in Wheeling. "This has been a great experience for me and I have enjoyed working with so many wonderful people." Aspenwall said. But she added she is eagerly looking forward to her new position because it involves the type of work she prefers.
With her departure the chamber office staff will have undergone a complete change in the past five months. In November, Katyn Gross of St. Clairsville assumed the position of administrator, succeeding Alyesa Hendershot who resigned in August. Gross is a graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati and earned her master's degree at West Virginia University.
A financial aid program, which makes available up to $2,500 for an organization in the Belmont County to promote tourism through their sponsorship of events and programs designed to bring visitors into the county, has been launched by the Belmont County Tourism Council.
Up to $50,000 is made available each year by the tourism council through its "Grants Assistance Program" (GAP) for organizations to sponsor events that promote tourism. "Our goal, as always, is to bring people into the area," noted tourism council executive director Eugene Householder.
Individual grants ranging from $500 to $2,500 can be used for promotion of programs as well as for improvements and maintenance of historical sites in the county. Applications for grants have been sent out to previous GAP participants. New applicants may pick up forms at the tourism office at the Ohio Valley Mall. Applications must be returned to the tourism office by Feb. 29.
Beware of hackers. They're computer experts who sneak into computer files of individuals, businesses, corporations, government agencies and the like, to gain access to secret documents and information.
But hackers are out mostly for financial gains and a case like that happened last month in Belmont County where a well known official had his computer files hacked by someone who tried to extort money from his friends. The following message was received by several friends and acquaintances of the county resident, including the Belmont County tourism office:
"I really hope you get this fast. I could not inform anyone about our trip because it was impromptu. We had to be in Madrid Spain for a program. The program was successful, but our journey has turned sour. We misplaced our wallet and cell phone on our way back to the hotel we lodge in after we went for sight seeing. The wallet contained all the valuables we had. Now our passport is in custody of the hotel management pending when we make payment.
"I am sorry if I am inconveniencing you, but I have only very few people to run to now. I will be indeed very grateful if I can get a loan of $2,650 from you. This will enable me sort our hotel bills and get my sorry self back home. I will really appreciate whatever you can afford in assisting me with. I promise to refund it in full as soon as I return. Let me know if you can be of any assistance. Please let me know soonest."
Tourism officials immediately branded it a scam. After the holiday period the individual was contacted in Belmont County, not in Madrid. He was fully aware of the bogus email and had already taken steps to notify investigative officials. He had a bit advice for computer users: "Make your password as complicated as possible and not related in any way to your business."
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: email@example.com.