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Historic Project Revised; Political Forum Comes Up ‘Short’

February 26, 2012
By Al Molnar , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

With revisions made in the scope of materials and/or labor and adjusting the overall cost of the work to be done, bids will be opened again on Wednesday by the Belmont County commissioners for renovating the historic sheriff's residence situated on the plaza opposite the courthouse.

Four weeks ago bids for reconstructing the building that fronts the century-old Belmont County jail that was vacated a dozen or so years ago were opened and all five bids submitted far exceeded the architect's estimated cost of the project.

In the bid document submitted at that time, the estimated cost of the renovation work was set at $674,801. The lowest bid submitted during the bid opening on Feb. 1, was in excess of $800,000. The highest of the five was one that exceeded $1 million.

Commissioners rejected all of the bids and the architects informed them revisions would be made hopefully to bring the cost of the project within the funds available. Commissioner Ginny Favede, who has been spearheading the residence renovation, commented, "Hopefully, the second bids will be more economically driven."

Under the revised bid document, the architect attached a notation of an addendum "to indicate reductions in the scope of materials and/or labor. In addition the estimated cost of the work was hiked approximately $25,000 - from $674,801 to $700,665.16. The changes in the bids could mean a larger number of contractors may submit estimates for the work since there were 21 firms that attended the first pre-bid conference but only five submitted cost estimates for the project.

Belmont County received the bulk of the funds for the renovation in an enhancement grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation in the amount of $679,000. To that the Belmont County Tourism Council, which is to have a satellite office in the refurbished building, put up the matching funds of $150,000.

A public political forum held last week by the Belmont County Township Trustees Association could very well be classified as a "short" presentation.

First, it was "short" on some candidates, who had stand-ins represent them.

Second, it was "short" on trustees who failed to show for the meeting and forum.

Third, and most important, it was "short" on public attendance.

Association president Greg Bizzarri admitted he had anticipated more members would attend the meeting. Only 20 of the 64 members of the county organization were there. "I was very disappointed," Bizzarri said afterwards. There wasn't a big turnout of the public, either, but Bizzarri noted, "Those that were there got something out of it. The candidates made good presentations."

Ten candidates whose names will appear on the March 6 primary election ballot had the opportunity to outline their backgrounds and goals.

At the outset, former Rep. Charlie Wilson of St. Clairsville and his Democrat rival, Casimir Adulewicz of Steubenville, shared friendly pleasantries about each other, like old friends. Adulewicz said he didn't like the way things were going in this country when he was in law school at the Ohio State University and that is when he decided some day he would become involved in the political process. But he started out his presentation in a way that somewhat startled those present. "I'm not qualified for a congressman," Adulewicz declared. "I couldn't find my way here" (to the disaster operations center in St. Clairsville). He closed stating "if elected I'll be very accessible."

Wilson was more direct. Referring to losing his seat in the last election, Wilson declared, "I did not want to come home. There was much work to be done there. Jobs were the most important thing then and are still now. I voted for what was right for the Ohio Valley."

Sheriff Fred Thompson was the first of the three sheriff's candidates to speak and he praised the work accomplished by his department. "I'm proud of the job we have done, especially in getting the sexual predators off the streets." He said the department will continue their efforts "to keep children safe from predators." He is seeking his third consecutive term.

Dave Lucas, the Republican candidate seeking to unseat Thompson, outlined his 30 years in law enforcement, working with three different sheriffs. He said he automated the sheriff's office and also was instrumental in getting digital fingerprinting. "I do have experience," he declared, adding, "I've been there; done that and I have accountability."

A veteran of 17 years in law enforcement, Bellaire police Lt. Dick Flanagan, is opposing Thompson for the Democrat nomination. Highlighting his experience, Flanagan declared "I'm probably the main reason the Belmont County Drug Task Force exists." He worked for the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and also handled cases for the U.S. Marshal's Service. "If elected, you'll see a more active shop."

"I love my job," was the way county Commissioner Ginny Favede started her presentation. She stressed the commissioners' goal has been to improve the community and work force. "We are a team; we're working together and we've reduced our operating budget significantly." Referring to the recently completed strategic economic development plan, she noted, "This too is a team concept" and she added that the new business in Barnesville that has the potential of 100 or more jobs was the result of the same cooperation.

Favede's opponent in the primary, Lyle Baumgardner, was not present and appearing for him was Butch Meager, who described the candidate as a good friend and "the most honorable person I've ever known."

"One hundred jobs in Barnesville, 25 jobs in Martins Ferry," was the way Matt Coffland opened his remarks in reference to recently opened new businesses. He was the liveliest among the speakers as he paced the floor passing out leaflets that outlined his goals and alluded to what he called "the hard work we've done in the past three years" and then continued on the move to elaborate on the board's accomplishments.

Among them he cited the Mt. Victory Road waterline project, the Neffs sewage project and working towards the planned improvements at the Ohio Valley Mall. "We took over the senior citizens program and we're saving money. Every new job that comes to Belmont County involves the county commissioners."

The appearance of the three candidates for country treasurer was launched by Kathy Jo Curfman, who cited her employment as an accountant as the kind of experience needed to fill the office of the county treasurer. "I have the education and the dedication to hold the job of treasurer." The past four years she had been employed in the county magistrate's office and prior to that she was an auditor at the Wheeling Island Hotel Casino-Racetrack.

Former county commissioner Mike Bianconi pledged to retire from his steel plant job if he is the successful treasurer candidate. He cited his eight years as a county commissioner and his many years as a Peace Township trustee as his experience for handling county funds. "I'll be a full time treasurer," Bianconi said. And he added, "Everyone knows I address issues head on."

Attorney Mike Shaheen pointed out that from a young age he gained business experience from working for the family business, Bedway Coal Co. He claims a strong desire to "stay in public service - on the local level rather than the state even though it was an honor to be appointed to a state office." He was chairman of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission.

Winding up the forum were stand-ins for Andy Thompson, Republican candidate and Jim Drake, Democrat candidate for the 95th district state representative seat. Two other candidates for that same office, William Weekley and Charlie Daniels were not there.

Organizations that participated in the Belmont County Tourism Council's GAP program that provides funds for tourism related activities, have until Wednesday to file their applications for funds under this year's program. Fiscal officer Doris White also said receipts for last year's expenditures are due that same day.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at:

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