In a nostalgic visit to the little community of Neffs where he played and grew up as a youngster, Ed Jagucki could see huge piles of earth produced from a project to which he has devoted his energies for nearly a dozen years.
He wasn't awestruck or astonished, just happy and satisfied to see that the town he moved away from as a young man was finally getting something sorely needed. The trip to Neffs was his first view of the work being done to complete a $2,809,805 project to provide a sewage system and end the plague of open raw sewerage in the community.
Jagucki has resided in St. Clairsville for more than a half century but a dozen or so years ago when talks began in earnest to provide a sewage system for Neffs, he was ready and willing to help. And he pushed the project almost weekly.
"I stepped in to help push it along. I told the people there, 'I owe you something and I'll do my best to push this project through. I won't quit'."
And he didn't quit. For about the past eight years he has regularly attended the weekly meetings of the Belmont County commissioners to check on what progress was being made. In the past three years his inquiries to the commissioners have been more intense. To which the board members at times became a bit frustrated in trying to satisfy him with their answers. More than once they resorted to involved explanations on how dealing with state and federal government agencies for funding becomes very time-consuming. Jugucki's frustration likewise was obvious.
Mary Jackson, a resident of Neffs, was in attendance with Jagucki at many of those meetings. She was one of the volunteers who collected the names of people in Neffs, West Neffs and St. Joe who would tie into the system. Occasionally others from the community who wanted the project finalized were there also. "They did all the hard work, not me," Jagucki stressed. "They went door to door to contact everyone in the towns. They developed a bundle of information on the project. All I did was help them present it to the commissioners."
It got so the commissioners looked for him at every meeting. If on a rare occasion he did not show up, there was concern among the board members about what caused his absence. Jackson paid tribute to Jagucki for his untiring efforts. "If it wasn't for Ed we wouldn't have gotten this," she declared.
During the commission meeting last week, the board made the first payment -$226,020.09 - to Fields Excavating Inc. of Kitts Hills, near Athens, for the work already accomplished. Knowing how concerned and attentive Jagucki has been to the project, commissioner Matt Coffland offered to take Jagucki to Neffs to see that the work is actually under way.
Jagucki accepted and as we arrived in Neffs, the first place of interest was the church that Jagucki said he attended. A little further down the main street, he pointed to a white wood frame structure. "That was our house. That's where I lived."
His old home is approximately two blocks from where huge mounds of earth have been piled up between the homes as workmen install an 8-inch sewer line. It was being buried 16 feet underground. Jackson said although there are piles of dirt near some people's homes, no one is complaining. "I haven't heard of any complaints," Jackson declared. "Everyone's just happy to see the work start."
If everything goes right, the system should be in use by November. The end of the project doesn't mean the commissioners will have seen the end of Jagucki at their meetings. He's still planning to be there.
There won't be a red carpet welcome but Belmont County officials will be greeting with open arms the oil, gas and related business officials to what has turned out to be an event much larger than first anticipated.
Business and industry officials from all over the country are expected for the Ohio Valley Regional Oil & Gas Expo at the Carnes Center on Wednesday and at the reception on Tuesday that will be catered by Undo's catering service. The Belmont County Tourism Council arranged to have 60 hotel rooms reserved for the visiting officials on the Expo dates and Eugene "Doc" Householder noted early last week that virtually all of them have been taken.
Response to the Expo has been so great that the commissioner Ginny Favede and Port Authority Director Larry Merry, who have been directing the preparations for the event, arranged to lease two huge tents to house the overload of exhibitors from the Carnes Center, where 81 booths have been sold. In the two tents an additional 87 exhibitors was have their displays. Even that wasn't enough space so some exhibitors will have open air displays near the Carnes Center.
The Expo on Wednesday will be open to visitors all day and admission is free. However, there is a fee for attending the pre-Expo reception on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Concerned over the continued threat of additional Post Office closings, Belmont County commissioners will discuss the issue on Thursday at a public hearing that is expected to attract a large turnout of residents from the seven small communities in the county that are facing possible closing of their Post Offices.
U.S. Postal Service officials will be joined by state and local officials to discuss the future of postal service to Blaine, Barton, Lafferty, Warnock, Glencoe, Bannock and New Athens. Commissioners are urging residents of those communities as well as postal employees to attend the meeting. Two communities in the county, Maynard and Flushing already have been affected by the postal cutbacks.
State Sen. Lou Gentile, state Rep. Jack Cera, state Rep. Andy Thompson, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson and former congressman Charlie Wilson have been invited to attend the session. Expected to be there representing the USPS are Charles Mulidore, area vice president for Ohio; Richard Sargent, Ohio state representative for the National Association of Postal Supervisors and Bill Belville of the St. Clairsville Post Office.
All three county commissioners will be at the session during which the public will have the opportunity to seek answers on how their service will be affected by the cutbacks the USPS has been talking about for many months. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Union Local Middle School auditorium in Morristown.
At public meetings such as a village or city council session, there is a standard routine for voting on legislation or some other issue. Members reply either yes, no or abstain and sometimes there is an abstention for conflict of interest.
But at a recent meeting of Barnesville Village Council, a new type response was injected when the roll call came. Council had been discussing what an advertisement for a public hearing on the Joint Economic Development District proposal involving the village and Warren Township should contain.
A key issue in the proposed advertisement was whether the vacant 100-acre former Belmont County Children's Home property in Tacoma on Ohio 147 just east of Barnesville should be included in the JEDD contract. Also at issue was whether to omit restrictions concerning residences within the district.
After a lengthy discussion council approved advertising for the two public hearings - the first at 6 p.m. Monday, May 21 in the Warren Township trustees office and the second at 6:30 p.m. at the Barnesville fire station.
When the roll call on the motion came, councilman Terry McCort cast his vote as "I don't know."
Since my last comparison of gasoline prices here last week, stations in St. Clairsville reduced the price of gasoline by 15 cents a gallon over the past week. That's encouraging as reports nationally indicate the price continues to increase.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.