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Father’s Day Disaster Recalled; Armory Deal Closure Eyed

June 16, 2012
By Al Molnar , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Father's Day is usually filled with family fun, praise and tributes for Dad and everything he has done, but for some residents of the Neffs-Willow Grove area of Belmont County, the 2011 Father's Day was one filled with tears, toils and destruction.

Cheryl Zeno remembers the events of a year ago as though it happened yesterday. That's because she lost her home and much of her possessions when a constant deluge of rain transformed Little McMahon Creek into a raging waterway many times its normal size and depth and washing away virtually everything in its path.

"We had rain and more rain, lots of rain," Zeno recalled. "Everything seemed fine when I got home at 9:30 that night and pulled the car in the driveway. It was just raining hard."

"But a half hour later my daughter, Rosa, came running into the house yelling 'Mom we have to get out of here. The water is coming up. It's already in the basement'." Within a matter of what seemed minutes, there was 10 feet of water in the back of her home and over a foot of it was inside her home on Pike Street in Neffs.

"The water was above my knees when we got the car out of the driveway." Then Zeno, her mother and daughter turned their attention to getting possessions out of the house. Twice before in the past 10 years Zeno's home was caught in high water, "but I never had it come into the house."

The three of them were gathering up belongings as water kept pouring into the home but their efforts were suddenly thwarted. "The power went out," she exclaimed, forcing them to take refuge with her other daughter, Renee Craig, in a section of Neffs that was not affected by the flash flood.

Zeno related Renee and her husband went back to her home in an effort to see what they could salvage. "They were there until about midnight. When they returned, Renee was crying 'you can't go back there'." The damage was too extensive.

What she recalled as the surprise of her life came early the following morning. "My best friend from my kindergarten days, Cindy Padgett, was there leading a group of about 30 people" ready to help her in whatever way they could. "Her first words to me were, 'What do you need done?' It was unreal the help they offered. I would not have gotten that anywhere else."

Another tragic part of the whole mess was "I didn't have flood insurance so nothing was covered. Then right after the flood my insurance company dropped me." From the time of the flood in June until December, she lived with her daughter. Since then she was able to find another little home for rent in Neffs.

No state or federal disaster declaration was issued for that flash flood because it was not as widespread as a flood a month earlier in the county. However through the county commissioners working with the federal Belomar Regional Council, she and others affected by that flood were made available for a mitigation program to regain some of their financial losses. "I filed an application and everything has been approved. We're just waiting now from FEMA for the final word." Under the mitigation program, FEMA puts up 75 percent of the funds, and the county and state share funding for the final total.

"I hated to lose my home. I've lived there since 1976 and my parents lived there before that. But thankfully," she added with a sign of relief, "no one was injured. I am so thankful for all of the people who came to help us. We would not have been able to get through this without them."


Sketchy details about three major business developments in Belmont County - two of them in Martins Ferry - were brought up during a special town hall meeting held Thursday in Martins Ferry.

Ferry Mayor Paul Riethmiller told the sparse turnout comprised mainly of either county or city officials that formal announcements should come in July for two business developments.

"One of them is no secret," Riethmiller noted, referring to a business that has set up shop in the northern end of the city that has been viewed by many people. Even as the meeting was progressing, workers for the National Lime & Stone Co. were operating a conveyor belt to unload one of a string of railroad box cars lined up at the plant located on the Ohio River bank.

The Findley, Ohio-based stone company set up shop in Martins Ferry several weeks ago and has already amassed hundreds of tons of lime and stone in the area. Riethmiller gave credit to Belmont County Port Authority Larry Merry for bringing that plant and another larger facility whose identity was not revealed, to his city.

Merry also told the group he would be closing the deal this week for acquisition of the former Bellaire Armory building - a purchase the county has been negotiating for two years. The county is paying $205,000 and has already sent the Government Services Agency $20,500 as a down payment. The building will be made available to the MPR transloading facility on the Ohio River in the Bellaire Industrial Park.


Concerned about the safety of fans attending football games at West Virginia University's Mountaineer Field - particularly the elderly and handicapped - St. Clairsville's Frank Secreto has written university officials about an improvement he feels should be made at the stadium.

Secreto, who earned his master's degree in education at WVU and is an ardent football and basketball fan, pointed out the existing problem makes attending football games a "physical challenge" for some.

He noted "there are handrails in the upper area of the football stadium but none in the lower area. This creates serious issues for older and/or handicapped fans and may present a liability for the University. I urge you to consider the seriousness of this problem."

His email was addressed to WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck and less than 24 hours later he received a reply that such a project is being considered.

"We have discussed handrails in the upper deck and have asked our staff to cost them out. The project would run about $200,000, according to our estimators. We don't have a timetable to do the work but it is on our list of 'things to do'. Thanks again for your support of WVU."

Secreto has been an avid supporter of WVU ever since he earned his master's degree in 1964. In fact, he was one of the three founders of BMAC - the Belmont Mountaineer Athletic Club - which has grown from just three members to a membership of around 400. And while I did not attend WVU, I am happy to have been the launching point in this corner of the BMAC.


How the oil and gas drilling business will affect the Belmont County area will be the focus of two meetings on Wednesday.

The Belmont Energy Coalition, comprised of the Martins Ferry, Bellaire, St. Clairsville, Shadyside and Bridgeport Chambers of Commerce, will be meeting at 9 a.m. in the community room of Bellaire Public Library to find out what affect the sudden surge of oil and gas operations had on one Pennsylvania community. Seth Albers of Williamsport, Pa., will enlighten the members on how the oil and gas business affected his city and its residents.

On that same day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. the Ohio Valley Regional Oil &Gas Career Expo will be held at the Carnes Center east of St. Clairsville to stimulate local hiring for the and expanding industry. Prospective employers from throughout the area will be there to outline opportunities available.


Enjoy your day, Dads. Happy Father's Day.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at:

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